Top tips for a perfect… no, a *real* Christmas
Hard to believe, I know, but … well … Christmas can get a teensy bit stressful sometimes. I know, I know, yours is probably perfect – tasteful and beautifully coordinated hand-made decorations, smiling children who are delighted with a few small but carefully-chosen gifts, sparkling chit-chat with cheerful relatives, delicious food that everybody eats without complaint, and not a tree needle to be seen anywhere on the living room carpet.
Yeah, right. If you’re Nigella, I suppose it might be. But if you’re normal? Not so much. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy Christmas – I genuinely do. I’m just saying that I’ve never, ever had a Christmas Day that looks like it does on the telly or in magazines.
I’ve been talking to Rachel Green, a counselling psychologist who practices in Hitchin, about ways to take some of the tension out of the tinsel-decked festivities. And here’s her Christmas pressie to us all – her top tips for staying sane over Christmas!
Think ahead, and expect the unexpected. I know, it’s easier said than done, but it’s definitely worth it. Take the strain out of shopping by tryihg to avoid that stressful, last-minute (and expensive!) dash to the shops. And while you’re at it, buy a few extra gifts for any unexpected guests.
If other people are offering to help, let them! Delegate tasks to others – and be very specific: “Yes, you can help! Please sit here with this glass of mulled wine/cup of tea and peel and chop the carrots into batons.” If you’re entertaining friends or neighbours, keep it brief and set a clear time limit – “pop over for mulled wine and mince pies between 10-12.” And take a deep breath. Yes, it’s Christmas Day and it’s an important day – but if the turkey is dry and you burn the potatoes, the world is not going to stop turning. Honest.
Many of us have a difficult relationship with our in-laws. Add in Christmas, over-eating, drinking too much, and being in close proximity to each other over a long period of time and it can lead to all sorts of hurt feelings and irritations. Set limits (“stay over for one night”), attempt to be gracious, don’t expect too much and if they openly criticise try (and I know this is hard!) to smile and deflect the barb – “Really? Do you think so?” Over Christmas dinner is not the best time to say they have hurt your feelings. Save it until the next day or a time you see them away from the hubbub of Christmas Day.
Children’s expectations of Christmas these days can be vast. The excitement of Christmas and of being at home over the school holidays can lead to sibling arguments and the familiar cry of “Mum, I’m bored” – and tensions can run high for everyone. Again, set limits – acknowledge what your kids want but make it clear what is possible: “would you like the one expensive present or several smaller gifts?” Have some family rituals as these, no matter the age of your children, are a lovely way of bringing everyone together and creating happy memories. It can be as simple as a walk after Christmas lunch to something more elaborate that your children can get involved in planning – something they want to do but that involves everyone.
Expectations are what this is all about. The hype leads us to believe we should all be having a warm, fuzzy, wonderful, loving time. And yes, some of us might get close to that! But many won’t. If we don’t set ourselves up to believe this is what we SHOULD be experiencing, we’ll have a much better chance of having a much more enjoyable day and Christmas holiday.