Top tips to help you survive Christmas and emerge unscathed into the New Year.
And so it begins. Innocuously enough. Appearing at first to be something you might actually enjoy. An invitation for Christmas drinks. Old friends returning from overseas. The first mince pie of the year….
But before you know it you’ve overbought (three presents for one person/none for another). Overeaten. Had eight hangovers. And plotted the death of difficult family members in such intricate gory detail that the sight of the giblets feels more like a flashback than reality.
Just me? I don’t think so. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of strategies to see us all safely through Christmas.
- This is a really good tip. So simple you might gloss over it looking for something more entertaining but I urge you to pay attention. Don’t sweat the little things. Got it? Don’t sweat the little things. Allowing the success of Christmas (which is a notion we should all bin) to become a quest for perfection will end badly. I spent 12 years making myself ill before I learnt this lesson. It is acceptable to give teachers Christmas presents that aren’t homemade. And the bin men would much rather wait until the next collection for their annual tip than be chased down the street by a mad woman in her pyjamas (complete with broken buttons and top flapping in the wind).
- My second tip is related to the first. Subtly different but equally important. Don’t expect too much. Beware of phrases like ‘I just want this Christmas to be really special.’ Christmas is just one day. Out of 365. Sometimes I wonder if Christmas Day might collapse under the pressure. We could wake in 2017 to find December the 25th has disappeared entirely from the calendar. Just a sinkhole left where Christmas used to be.
- New babies, new homes and romantic attachments often prompt the desire to make Christmas special. If you notice the signs, try to gently exert a little expectation management. If Uncle Brian shares personality traits with Donald Trump none of these subjectively life changing events are likely to change Uncle Brian. Best be prepared if disappointment is to be avoided….
- Consult interiors magazines prudently. Do not for a second imagine you can replicate the perfected vision of Christmas that lies within those glossy pages. These room sets are professionally styled, lit and photographed. By all means take a peek at Pinterest. Make a wreath. Handcraft some name tags for the table. Set your home twinkling with fairy lights. But know when to stop. If you find yourself at 2am personalising your gift wrapping with individual fern fronds wrapped in golf leaf – yep, been there – then it’s time to stop.
- Do go to the office party. But do so in the knowledge that man, woman or child, getting dressed up is often the most enjoyable part of the experience. I used to wonder at women who took the afternoon off work to get ready for the Christmas do. Why go to all that effort just to eat bad food and dance to 80’s music (it’s always 80’s music) with people you work with every day? But now I get it. If the office do is rubbish – which of course it will be – at least you had a nice afternoon getting your hair, face and nails done.
- Should you find yourself in the company of a boring person over the festive period I find it helps to power down. Christmas is such a frantic time that there are precious few opportunities to simply… relax. See if you can affect a glittering smile that fulfils the social need to appear engaged whilst actually catching up on some down time. It’s amazing how well this works. The other option of course is to use the time to think about what to buy people…
- On the subject of presents. Try not to let present purchases escalate out of control. There are many reasons this might happen. Perhaps you’re unsure the recipient likes the gifts you buy. So you decide to buy something really special (it’s that phrase again). This is unlikely to be a successful strategy. If you really haven’t got it right in the past spending more money isn’t going to mean you get right this time. It just means you’ll potentially have wasted more money. Or if they’ve been happy with their previous gifts but they’re just not very demonstrative. Again you’ve spent more money than you need to and put more pressure on them to reciprocate, leading to further escalation in the future.
- There are legitimate reasons to spend more on a particular person, for instance they might be hosting Christmas Day (a costly endeavour). If so, be clear that you’ve spent more on their gift for this reason. This allows them to enjoy the gift without thinking they failed to return your generosity.
Offering to Help
- If you are spending Christmas away from home only offer to bring food if you plan to make it yourself (unless it’s cheese). If your host is going to the trouble of making Christmas Dinner from scratch it is not on to turn up with shop bought anything. I don’t care how much M&S spend on adverts telling us their food is as good as home cooked. It’s not. If cooking isn’t your thing, then offer to help with something else.
- Any offer of help should be specific. The logistics of Christmas would wear out history’s finest Generals. A non-committal ‘let me know what I can do to help’ is as good as useless to a festive Napoléon. ‘I can take the kids for a few hours on Christmas Eve/pick up the turkey/collect Aunt Joan/get the wine,’ etc. is an actionable offer of help and therefore actually helpful.
- When it comes to the big day try to be on your best behaviour. It’s all too easy to blame failures in family dynamics on other people. Truth is few of us are angels. It’s completely impossible to alter the behaviour of others but you can change your own. Affect an air of detachment (see dealing with boring people). Don’t get involved. Don’t react. It’s just one day. And perhaps just not letting it get to you will turn out to be special enough.
- Should this fail. Here’s one I read about a while back. Try to imagine your family dead. Gruesome as this may sound it’s actually a very effective strategy. Close your eyes. Imagine they’re gone and you never get to spend Christmas with them again. Go through the emotions. Feel the grief. Now open your eyes and feel lucky. Appreciate that you have family and glide gracefully on through the day.
My final tip (see below) is; should you choose to blog about plotting the death of family members at Christmas, or even imagining them dead then it’s probably a good idea to do so anonymously.
This identity of this week’s blogger has been protected at her request.
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