Enjoy a stress-free holiday!


Stop the festive season becoming a merry-go-round of frazzled nerves, sapped energy levels and fizzing resentment. Here’s how to find calm in a sea of craziness…



1 Put yourself first

Yes, it’s the season of goodwill to all – and that includes you. Accept you can’t please everyone, and that what you manage to do will be good enough. “Remember, the ideal of a fairytale Christmas is a complete illusion,” explains Jenni Trent-Hughes, dating website eHarmony’s relationship expert and counsellor. “It’s been created by the movies and the media, but is completely unattainable. So release yourself from striving to create it, and keep your expectations realistic.” So decide on which aspects of the season are most important to you – special time with family, eating good food with friends or immersing yourself in the spiritual side of the occasion – and make these the focus of your time and energy. This is not selfishness – after all, a happier you equals a happier everyone else.


2 Build bridges before the big day

Most families have tensions. But don’t fall into the trap of believing these tensions will be miraculously resolved by the sheer joy of being together in the same room as a 6ft-tall Norwegian spruce. “Your best bet is to either attempt to build bridges beforehand or see the warring factions separately,” advises Jenni. “But if these options aren’t practical and you have no choice but to spend Christmas with people who can’t stand each other, ask them in advance to leave their differences at the door until the 27th when they’re more than welcome to pick up where they left off. It’s also worth using a bit of emotional blackmail. Use the most vulnerable person in your family – the oldest or the youngest – and say, ‘Aunt Mabel/little Isabel gets so terribly upset when you argue. So please try not to spoil Christmas for her and don’t argue on the day.’ Believe me, this can work absolute wonders.”


3 Don’t go to everything

We do it every year – moan about how exhausted we are because we try to accommodate every social invitation on top of the extra tasks generated by the festive season. “Stop!” says Steve Tromans, Harley Street hypnotherapist. “Try taking away 20 per cent of these ‘pressing invitations’ and replace them with something sensible from your usual routine, such as an exercise class, an early night, etc. You’ll feel so much better – mentally and physically – for it.”


4 Pre-empt the loose cannons

Tired and wired kiddies, intolerant oldies, the in-law or sibling who gets argumentative after a bucks fizz too many. You know which members of your family are most likely to create trouble and strife, so set up some preventative strategies beforehand. “The key to dealing with loose cannons is to keep them busy and out of other people’s way,” says Jenni. “So orchestrate their movements. Get the kids taken out to the park for a runaround. Give the sibling who likes one too many the sprouts to peel so their hands are busy. Make the family grump feel important by giving them a vital task such as laying the table beautifully. And stick a few rewards in there to keep them on track – tell the children that if they stay sitting at the table throughout lunch, they can have a treat during the Queen’s speech. Or that as the grump and tipsy sibling are helping you so beautifully, there’s a bottle of fizz they can each take home!”


5 Plan. Meticulously.

They say organisation is the key to holding back chaos, so if you are planning on hosting a big do, create a daily to-do list covering the two weeks up to the big day, then an hourly to-do list for the last 48 hours. Cover everything from last minute shopping, wrapping, tidying the house to the countdown to the dinner itself. And don’t forget to delegate at least one in three tasks so you don’t wear yourself out.


6 Get tech savvy

Use Skype or FaceTime to catch up with old friends and relatives – especially if it means you save a hideous car journey or expensive plane ticket. Agree a mutually convenient time to speak – taking into account different time zones – so you can open presents together, raise a glass at the start of your meal or have a Christmas sing song before bedtime.


7 Do something different

Always have a meltdown trussing a turkey that ends up dry and disappointing? Or do you get up early and have a mad flap getting the main meal ready for a 1pm sit down so the family can watch The Queen’s speech or a particular film on TV? Throw tradition out the window this year if it doesn’t work for you. There is nothing to say you can’t go to a pub or restaurant, or have the main meal and alcohol at 7pm and a light buffet at lunchtime instead. Nothing at all, in fact, to suggest that you even have to remain at home on the day – or even in the country. Merry Christmas!



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