I have had a stressful few days. Please see the post for part of the saga and more will follow if only for my sanity's sake. However, I wanted to share some tips I recently received on how to reduce the stress around Christmas. Since I can guess that many of us, especially mums, will be heading towards fever pitch, here they are as an early Christmas gift from me to you. I like number 7, 9 and 10 in particular!
Every year we say that this time it will be different. No more hunting the shops at 4pm on Christmas Eve looking for this year's 'must have' toy. No more rows over the relatives. No more horrific credit card bills in January. Here are 10 tips for a stress-free Christmas by coach Joyce Campbell (www.joycampbell.co.uk) Joyce is also the author of How To Get Off Your Basckside And Live Your Life!
1. Let go of perfectionism! You don't need to handcraft all your own decorations, make your own Christmas pudding and have the entire family looking angelic on Christmas morning. Accept that fantasies are just that, and enjoy what does happen, without trying to impose an image of perfection that no one can live up to.
2. Manage expectations: if a toy is hard to find, explain that Father Christmas may not have enough to go round, and they should choose an alternative gift in case he can't supply their first choice. Set a date in your mind when you will stop looking for the first choice present, and buy the second choice. With older children, be clear about your budget for gifts.
3. Be proactive and set boundaries in advance. If you are inviting relatives to stay for the holidays, be clear about when you expect them to leave. If you find this hard, you can try saying something like "We'll be really pleased to pick you up from the train on Xmas Eve, and then we can run you back to the station on the 27th, before we go to Sara's for the night". Likewise, if you are going somewhere, be clear in advance about when you will be leaving. It upsets everyone to have Grandma crying on boxing day because she thought you would stay till New Year.
4. Lay in a small stock of quirky and gender neutral gifts for adults and kids, and wrap them in festive paper in advance. That way you won't feel embarrassed if you have unexpected visitors or gifts.
5. Avoid over-committing yourself. Christmas seems to last about a month nowadays, and it's easy to accept too many invitations. If you find yourself in that situation, be honest, and say you will need to cancel.
6. Be assertive - don't put up with bad behaviour from warring relatives over the Christmas dinner. If necessary, have a firm word with people in the kitchen, and say that while you love them, their behaviour is upsetting everyone, and they need to stop.
7. Prioritise those things that give you pleasure. Let go of the 'shoulds' and 'musts'. If what you really want to do is snuggle on the sofa with your partner and watch a Christmas weepie then plan a way to get this. It's your holiday as well!
8. Don't be a martyr. When people offer help, accept it. If they ask what they can bring, tell them. Christmas dinner will be much easier if the work is shared.
9. Get everyone out of the house for some fresh air every day - life will be much more manageable if everyone has some breathing space.
10. Remember that no matter what your beliefs, this is a holiday, it's not selfish to have some me time. In fact, it's essential - there is a long winter still to come, so get some fun and relaxation!