Christmas always drives me crackers
If every Christmas brings the same old story of you playing host, being chef, waitress and referee, well then read on
Stop the stress: how to take the pressure out of hosting the big day. Photograph: Getty images
Q I am getting really stressed about Christmas. Every year I have my husband and our two kids, both sets of parents (who don’t get on) and an uncle who invites himself and never lifts a finger to help and always ends up arguing with my dad.
I feel like I am doing too much thinking about everyone else and I just can’t wait until it’s all over. It’s the same every year.
I end up slaving over everyone and everything and crying with self-pity in the kitchen when I am washing up the dishes. I want you to grit doctor the experience for me.
How can I make it less stressful and make myself really enjoy Christmas again?
A People everywhere will relate to your letter. It is unusual for Christmas to be a stress-free zone in anyone’s home: most families have at least one social hand-grenade of a relative who holds the power to make or break the day for everybody else.
Difficult relationships and/or old deep divisions are easily resurrected when you chuck in copious quantities of alcohol into a room full of people who get together only once a year and have a life’s worth of grievances to unleash.
But hey ho, here are my top tips for dealing with it all, in descending order of grittiness:
Spend Christmas abroad: Better still, spend Christmas day on an aeroplane. Flights are very cheap on Christmas Day and you have the added bonus of having the entire plane to yourselves. Stretch out across an entire aisle. Get upgraded.
Those bold enough to do this often strike me as the happiest during the festive season, combining their annual holiday with missing out on all the Christmas stress build-up back home and they get some much-needed sun-induced vitamin D to help see them through January and February.
When you add up the cost of hosting Christmas for eight or 10 – the presents, food and booze, the stress (let’s put a price on it for once) – there is probably not much in it. Strike up a deal with your other half and the kids that the present to yourselves is the holiday and, bang, you are done.
For the super-assertive, ask for cash from your parents to pay towards the trip.
Yes, there is still time and plenty of last-minute deals knocking about. Yes. You. Can. No one will die if you call them up and say it’s off this year. They will all find someone else’s Christmas to ruin and will never again take you for granted. Go on, I dare you.
Run away from it all: To be taken less literally than number 1, but running over Christmas
– daily – is a very good idea. Not only is it a great stress-reliever, it also ensures you remain sober until at least afterwards, buys you some valuable me time which is incredibly difficult to justify over the festive period, and leaves you feeling calm and serene and energised to face the rest of the day.
Plus, it wins you guilt-free eating and drinking. No one is going to deny you a run in the cold (say you are training for a 5k in January if you need an excuse or, better still, actually enter a 5k in January and start training for it).