With less than six weeks until Christmas, many people are agonising about the cost of Christmas presents, the thought of spending time with extended family, and generally making Christmas perfect. While we are bombarded with advertising images of happy families and couples enjoying the big day, in reality things are often not so rosy.
The pressure can mount ahead of the festive period, leading to arguments and stress and potentially relationship problems. Here are a few handy hints to help you survive the stress of Christmas.
Set a realistic budget: Much of Christmas stress is related to spending on presents, food and Christmas parties. The key to avoiding big credit card bills come January (and the stress and anxiety that comes with them) is to be honest about how much money you have to spend. Agree a maximum cost for presents with family members and friends. Start shopping for your Christmas meal well ahead of time to take advantage of deals and freeze pricier items such as meat and fish. If you're attending more than one Christmas party, consider recycling your outfits.
Set aside family quarrels: With busy everyday lives, we spend less time together as a family than ever before. Christmas is one of the few times in the year different family members with contrasting opinions congregate under one roof and it's easy for simple disagreements to turn into a family feud. If you are concerned about your relationships, speak to a family member or a friend before Christmas Day to try and resolve disagreements. Alternatively, you can agree to disagree for the time being. If all else fails and you feel that spending time with your family will be detrimental, limit it and only come along for Christmas dinner, for example. Never let things escalate. The best way to survive extended Christmas contact with relatives is to pre-plan time away from each other and also time together with a joint focus. Time out, such as popping upstairs to read your book away from it all, or going out to see a friend for an evening, nipping out for a drink with just your partner can provide a valuable opportunity to refocus and gain perspective on things.
Share the tasks ahead: We start feeling stressed for a number of reasons - the feeling of 'having too much on your plate' and being unable to cope is one of them. Delegate some of the tasks you're facing to others; if you're hosting Christmas dinner, ask friends and family to contribute a dish or come around early to help with last-minute preparations and table-setting. Grandparents are usually happy to be involved and asking them to help is a great way to show them you value their contribution. If there are older children in the family, ask them to keep the younger ones entertained whilst you're busy.
Don't go it alone: More and more Scots are living alone or too far away from their families to join them at Christmas. Being on your own over the holidays could cause negative feelings and even lead to depression. If you can't see your loved ones on Christmas Day, try arranging a Skype call and take a look around you: do you have a neighbour who has no family left or needs a helping hand? How about joining forces for Christmas, whether it is attending a party at a community centre or simply sharing a cup of tea and a mince pie?