• Diane Masters

What’s more important - your presence or the presents?

Unless you’re a hermit you’ll now be on the countdown to the BIG DAY.

Life’s getting busier with the ever-increasing number of ‘to do’ lists …presents still to buy, food planning and preparing and, at the same time, trying to keep an eye on work and think about plans for next year.

Expectations of the ‘perfect’ day surround us in the shops, the press and the cheerful TV ads – families sitting around the table, turkey at the ready, happy smiling faces, family and friends reunited. It’s a joyous time. What’s not to like? Eating, drinking, gifts, being with family and friends. There are great expectations.

But how realistic is it to believe that, if we get it all right, it will bring us joy?

The cost of presents, food and alcohol take a toll on our finances, with repayments going on into the New Year.

Family members, who don’t meet any other time of year, trying to get along - which often includes one or two renowned for being difficult.

Not to mention cooking and serving the perfect meal. Is perfection guaranteed?

No. But one thing that is fairly certain is some degree of stress.

So, what can you do to take off the pressure?

1. Avoid the culinary workload strain – will anyone notice if the food isn’t all homemade? It’s more important to spend time with those around you than to feel frazzled trying to be a domestic god(dess).

2. Keep things in perspective – this is one day of the year. Yes, you want it to be special, but at what cost to your own health and wellbeing?

3. Take time out for yourself – this may seem unrealistic when there’s so much going on, but just 10 minutes for a relaxing bath, reading a book, doing some slow breathing, an afternoon nap or a walk… something you enjoy which gives you time and space away from everyone.

4. Don’t criticise yourself - if things don’t turn out how you wanted - maybe the sprouts are hard and the gravy lumpy - don’t worry. ‘Good enough’ is fine and you’re ‘good enough’. Remember to keep saying that.

5. Don’t compare yourself with what’s being posted on social media – it seems everyone is having an amazing time…. are they really? Remember, people only post their (carefully curated) highlights.

6. Say ‘no’ and don’t feel guilty – pleasing everyone else and ignoring your own needs will make you feel angry and resentful, so keep your commitments to a level you can manage. It’s easier to say ‘no’ if you remember what you’re also saying yes to.

7. Relax and have some fun. Rise above any difficult situations - it’s only for the day. Have realistic expectations.

Making a few changes and accepting Christmas may not perfect means you can enjoy the festive season.

I’ll be following in the shoes of one friend who every year gets some good dance music on to keep her going. Even if something goes slightly wrong, it matters less when there’s music playing!

Have a brilliant, stress-free time. Happy Christmas.

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