December 2003 - January 2004
  Pure Agony
SUE FIRTH 

Hello again everyone!

So, it’s nearly the end of the year and Christmas is not far off. Everyone is rushing around buying presents and looking forward to the time they’ll spend with their relatives…….. or maybe not! Unfortunately, Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time for some of us as we struggle to get on with difficult people who we feel obligated to spend time with. I’m quite lucky in that I have a mother-in-law whom I actually quite get on with! She’s got some fixed ideas about things which I’ve experienced before in the form of “why don’t you do it this way?” when what she really means is “you’re really winding me up, now do what I want you to do!” but on the whole she’s fun!

So, for those of you who feel incredibly frustrated at the thought of being stuck in a claustrophobic house with relatives galore, here’s my Top 10 Tips for surviving the stress of Christmas.

Here we go: -
1. In the run-up to the big day, use mail order and internet shopping like they’re going out of fashion. Providing you access reputable sites, they are the best invention ever and take the whole business of trawling busy shops or struggling with heavy packages right out of the window! I know I may sound boring but I’ve done at least 50% of my pressie buying this way and I’m certainly feeling less tense about the whole thing. I even plan on getting the food delivered by our favourite superstore on one of their vans complete with happy smiling assistants rather than grumpy “ I don’t want to be doing this” shop assistants you see at some of the checkouts!

2. Think about how you can help take the strain out of the last couple of days before Christmas. Maybe book now for a relaxing session at your local beauty salon or the gym and plan on doing nothing! Go in the sauna, maybe a swim – use the jacuzzi or tan yourself and relax! Tell yourself it will be fine, that you are not going to pick any arguments and that you’ll purchase a few dvd’s, games or take out a few videos to take the stress out of relying on the t.v. for all your entertainment. Inevitably, what you like to watch isn’t on at the time or on the day you need it so plan ahead.

3. If you’re cooking, enrol help! Before, during and after the meal. Apportion jobs if you have to but be careful not to put anyone together in the kitchen you know doesn’t gel well. Either the crockery or your peaceful atmosphere will suffer. Harmony is everything!

4. No-one said you can’t be active around Christmas but it somehow feels inappropriate to go out when you should be in suffering with everyone! Get out if you feel suffocated, go for a walk – anything to escape but if you can, go with one or two members of the family you do like so that you don’t get blamed for leaving the sinking ship, you selfish b…….d you!

5. Kids particularly, like activity. Beg, borrow or buy some games for them or if you’ve got any say over who you invite over, other children or interested adults are the best relatives children need.

6. Avoid contentious subjects at all costs. May sound obvious I know but arguments start when gnawing issues are brought to the fore by alcohol or close proximity. Follow the previous rule about getting out if necessary and don’t be afraid to use the golden words “I understand you want to talk but I don’t think now is the time – maybe we could sit down and discuss this in the future”. You’ll look keen to understand them if nothing else…..

7. I know it may sound boring again but I really do use lists for everything I need to plan for. I literally write down anything I need to get done and then prioritise it using the A to E method. It goes like this, A is a task you must do at all costs, B is a should do as soon as possible, C is it would be nice to do, D is delegate it to someone else and E is leave it! It may sound easy but this really focusses my mind and helps enormously. The only problem is giving something to someone else to do because if your natural inclination is to say “I can’t, because it won’t get done properly” then you don’t trust them and trust is important if you are going to be less stressed.

8. Now for some practical ideas for the day. Why not decide to ask everyone to bring something towards the main meals. It’s an expensive business and you’d be getting both financial and practical help if you chose to do this. Give the turkey purchase to someone, the vegetables, you do the sausages and stuffing if you want to, and get someone to bring the pudding. It can be fun – oh, and don’t forget the crackers!

9. Remember, Christmas is meant to be enjoyable. We often lose sight of what its really all about and get het up with the preparation of it rather than its significance. We even think in terms of who we have to ask rather than who we’d like to have with us. Christmas isn’t a wedding though, it isn’t about having people there who you feel obligated to have if there’s any other time you can honour that inclination. Try inviting relatives you don’t get on with so much to a family BBQ in the summer instead – at least you’re outside in the sunshine.

10. Finally, if you really can’t cope with it all, why not book a hotel for the lunch. Let someone else do all the prep and planning – give yourself a well-earned rest once in a while! I’m sure you deserve it.

So, that’s me done for this month. If you can think of any stress-busting tips for people, drop me an e-mail to Sue@hotgossip.co.uk and I’ll make mention of them when I can. Better still, mail me and let me know how you got on – especially the nightmare presents, they’re always fun!!

Bye for now everyone,

Sue

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