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A few simple steps to help you breeze through the festive season

Whilst it is the season to be jolly, there is no hiding from the fact that the Christmas period can also be very stressful. Last-minute presents, dealing with the in-laws, over-excited children and the decision over where to spend Christmas Day all contribute, and if you’re hosting for family and friends it can get very pressured.

So what can you do if all the preparations are starting to get to you? "Above all, remember it is just one day," says counsellor and life coach Diana Parkinson. "And there's no point having a nervous breakdown to survive one day. You just need a nice meal and that's all - people take on far too much. Delegate!"

Deciding where to spend Christmas Day and Boxing Day

It’s a decision that many families face each year and it causes a headache for fear of offending someone because you’ve decided to go elsewhere or stay at home. If you have young children, try to opt to spend Christmas Day at your own home. "You don't want to stress about Great Aunt Matilda's house as your kids run riot," says Diana. Children need their own routine and their own toys around them when they are young, and avoiding having to travel great distances makes a lot of sense. "And if your relationship is not good with other family members, then just don't see them on Christmas Day," continues Diana. “You can always drop in and visit your extended family over Boxing Day and New Year."

A traditional turkey, a goose – or something else?

It's difficult trying to please everyone – and you can’t please everyone all of the time. However, you can ask people to help, either by helping set the table, serve drinks, or, if you’re catering for a large party then ask everyone to bring a dish. There are many recipes available online to cater for vegetarians, vegans or people with food allergies, and you can always serve a second meat such as ham for those who don’t like turkey.

Difficult in-laws

All joking aside, Christmas is the time of year when you spend time with everyone, including your in-laws. The close proximity of the celebrations, however, can place a strain on relationships and people may resent having to spend more time than they would like with a partner’s parents or siblings.

"Either don't invite them or invite them with a glad heart if you do," adds Diana. "People can pick up on it if you are dreading their visit." Once the decision is made as to where you’re spending Christmas together, try and be as friendly as possible. Keep smiling and try and avoid any subjects that may cause awkward conversations or full-blown arguments.

Keeping everyone happy

Most people like to feel useful when they’ve been invited over for Christmas, so delegate little jobs such as peeling vegetables, setting the table or pouring festive drinks to spread the Christmas cheer.

To avoid any post-dinner slumps or controversial topics of conversation, get someone to organize post-dinner games, either dusting off old board games or playing something suitable for all on the kids' games console. Keep the TV off as it’s unlikely everyone will want to watch the same thing, and an interactive activity keeps everyone involved and continues the festive spirit.

Surviving two or three days in a row…

You might feel as though your home is not your own and everyone is getting under each other’s feet once people have stayed beyond Boxing Day. Plan some fun activities for all the family; either catch the local pantomime, go out for a walk or if it has snowed, get everyone involved in building a snowman. Anything that will get everyone out of the house for a few hours will help improve your state of mind and make the stay easier to tolerate.

Further information

For help with how to cope with stress now or at any time of the year, Benenden members can call the Psychological Wellbeing 24/7 Helpline on 0800 414 8247.