If you're taking on to many tasks this festive season, then it might be time to change things up a bit. Here's our definitive guide to having a stress free Christmas...
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas when you’re screaming at the laptop because all delivery slots got snapped up in October an you’ve got a coach load of guests arriving to a house that’s run out of goose fat, napkins and brandy butter. If that sounds familiar, read our expert’s tips and pick the ones that will stop you ending up exhausted, red in the face and feeling less than Christmassy.
Family dynamics change as children turn to teens, leave home, or the next generation arrives, never mind marriages and break-ups. You don't necessarily have to overhaul everything or lose treasured traditions , but changing the way the day goes can make a big difference. Ask everyone in the family to come up with one thing that's really important to them about Christmas and be open to mixing things up a bit. For example, if three courses for lunch followed by tea with Christmas cake feels like a drag to your teens, suggest eating in the early evening instead. If you feel their screen addiction is going to get in the way, agree a social media ban for a fixed period and hand the job of entertainment over to them.
It's important to recognise when compromise and kindness has tipped over into pleasing people. Finding yourself saying "Yes" to things when what you really want to say is "No" is a bit of an old chestnut but it's still something that so many of us do, and never more so than at Christmas. If you feel under pressure to say yes to more cooking or hosting than you'd like, tell your house guests that you'll all be going for a pub lunch on Boxing Day (if it's your partner's family then he gets to do the telling!). Or send a friendly but firm email outlining the meals you'll be sharing and asking everyone to volunteer to take charge of either dish or a whole meal. Alternatively, if you are simply taking on to much and it's going to make you unhappy, tell a little white lie - whether fictional other visitors or a surprise weekend away organised by your partner - it's often the best way of reducing collateral damage.
Facebook Fan? You know that nobody's Christmas is perfect but if you are susceptible to FOMO (fear of missing out) then keep off Pinterest: comparing and contrasting is usually a shortcut to feeling inadequate. Instead, invite your Facebook friends to post their Christmas disasters!
If you feel the celebration has become to materialistic, think of ideas to make it more about just being together and enjoying the day. Is there a way for people to contribute their time and ingenuity? Little ones love staging plays; can adults compile a play list, write a quiz, or plan a special walk for boxing day? Or if you know people who would otherwise be left alone, can you share a part of the day with them.
Of course well all enjoy eating delicious food and sharing a glass or several, but there are little ways to lessen the damage rather than waiting till 1 January to turn the train around. Tricks like a glass of water between each alcoholic drink and starting with half a portion of dessert, cheese, cake, or canapes still allows lots of treats without feeling overindulged. The result? A happier you.
Even the most gregarious of us needs time out. All the more so if you have a house full of in-laws or family. It's important to build in some strategic exit moments when you can disappear for a walk (with or without a dog as an excuse!) or sneak in a moment to retreat with a book or even your copy of w&h. Make it plain to guests that they are more than free to do that too. You'll all regroup restored and ready for action.
We usually start out looking forward to a beautiful tree surrounded by perfectly chosen wrapped Christmas presents, but remember Christmas is not a showcase for your skills as wonder woman. Also, by allowing other people to contribute (albeit imperfectly), you'll add to their enjoyment and make Christmas even more of an event to be shared.
Trying to bring everything together at the right time.
Make contingency plans that let you go with the flow, even when your planning develops flaws. For example, soak-it-up canapes of a simple but fairly substantial nature mean if the oven temperature drops and it takes twice as long to cook the turkey, guests won't be ravenous or too tipsy. Let small children eat at their normal time. Other contingency plans…quizzes, a great film or comedy DVD.
You're exhausted…and doing everything!
Getting others to do more is a skill. Instead of automatically saying "Nothing" when people ask what they can do, think of useful tasks in advance. Can guests or family wrap presents, make or bring canapes, homemade mince pies (even if they've brought them from the WI stall). Or brandy butter? If they don't offer? Ask them anyway - sometimes people are just waiting for a bit if guidance. But don't forget the golden rule: once you've delegated, let the job be theirs and don't backseat drive!
Easy-to-make mistakes, such as leaving the giblets in or forgetting to make the gravy.
Your mood is more infectious than you realise. Being able to laugh at - or at least shrug off - things that go wrong immediately makes everyone relax, which in turn will make you feel better.