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How to stay stress-free this Xmas

Our favourite time of year is finally here. Family get togethers, office parties, reunions with old friends,and cosy nights in and wild nights out for many who regard the period as one of the most enjoyable timeframes for all fun fairs every single year.

According to experts, though for many, Christmas, especially, may be the most wonderful time of the year, it does not come without hard work – and often a fair amount of stress.

Whether it is caving in and buying that slightly too expensive computer game, or warmly welcoming family you are not entirely comfortable with, Christmas can get a bit much.

In the run-up to the big day, it can feel like you are burning the candle at both ends. There will be awkward office parties as well as Christmas meet-ups with friends.

Food and drinks menus have to be devised and someone has to organise getting relatives round before lunch.

The pressure to create a perfect day full of Instagrammable Christmas trees, beaming family members, and delicious food can often put strain on relationships too.

Before you know where you are, a supposedly joyful time turns into something all the more stressful. So here are some tips on how to cope with some of the key stresses of the festive season.

Denise Knowles, a counsellor for Relate, a charity providing relationship support throughout the United Kingdom says Christmas kind of puts a magnifying glass on relationships.

“Christmas has been sold to us as a time of family, of enjoying being together. So if our expectations are that is what it should be, and that does not happen, then we feel we have failed in some way. And if we fail then it is human nature to look to point the finger of blame.”

According to Knowles, if you want to spare your wallet (and your relationships) make a budget and stick to it.

“Come January that is the sort of thing that causes all the distress, when the credit card bill comes in,” she explains.

Bank of England data shows that households in December spend 30 per cent more on alcohol, 20 per cent more on food, and 80 per cent more on books.

Holiday season

Multinational courier delivery services companies, United Parcel Service, FedEx and United States Postal Service have indicated they expect to handle a record number of packages this year. FedEx, for instance, plans to hire 55,000 workers and raise hours for holiday season.

Knowles says the key to a less stressful Christmas is down to mental preparation and lots of planning. Anticipate what will happen on the day. Will Dad have one too many and doze off just as you are about to serve Christmas lunch? Will Monopoly end in tears? (Yes.). So once it’s clear where the stress is coming from, what next?In the words of professional organiser Jules Langford: “Cheat, shamelessly.”

“If you have to get mince pies for the school fair, buy them from Tesco and rough them up a bit,” she says. No one will know, or at least everyone will understand. Expecting things to be perfect is unrealistic and instead it is about prioritising, she says.

Every family has its unique and baffling dynamics. “But it’s all about communicating,” explains Knowles. “You don’t want an elephant in the room on Christmas Day.”

“If you’ve always got great Aunt Ethel sitting in the corner and she’s a bit of a pain then think ‘is there someone else that can take her?’’

Don’t expect people to behave differently because it’s Christmas. Break up the day to give people space. Go for a walk, together or separately.

For people with separated or extended families, it’s best to plan far in advance: “It’s not sexy, it’s not festive, but actually knowing who is going where, when, and how is important,” says Knowles.

And if this Christmas is the first one without a significant person, for whatever reason, it’s worth considering putting new rituals in place.

Jules Langford, who spends her time perfecting other people’s homes, says it is important to lower expectations to realistic and manageable levels.

On Instagram

There’s all sorts of Christmases. Don’t feel like you have to have the Christmas you see on Instagram. If you’re just sitting there in your PJs watching TV, that’s okay too. Cut yourself a bit of slack.”

She recommends prioritising three things you want to do this Christmas, and treat anything else as a bonus.

This helps get perspective and cut down on the guilt you feel after dropping out of your fifth carol concert of the month.

Remember, she says, it’s not all your responsibility. “Make it fun. Have a little Christmas meeting. Dole all the jobs out.”

Catering for everyone at Christmas is hard, but Knowles says the key to avoiding arguments is delegation: “If you have got everybody coming to you it might be an idea to say ‘you do the Christmas pudding, you do the crackers, you help with the dishes afterwards’.

“That way you’re not going to be stomping around annoyed in the kitchen.”

If you don’t fancy the faff of cooking, go out for Christmas lunch. “It also stops people rowing,” says Langford.

“They’re not going to start a fight in public. And no one person has to feel like they have martyred themselves.”

If Christmas food shopping is part of your festive buzz, then hit the supermarkets, but order heavy items like drinks online. –BBC and Correspondent

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