Christmas is a time of joy and happiness when most of us are reunited with loved ones and spend days feasting on delicious food and drink. Indulgence and excessiveness are the order of the day and the accepted norm.
But for many, the festive period can also trigger anxiety, stress and arguments – whether they're as banal as fighting over who has control of the TV remote, to having a full-on family row.
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Thankfully, presenter and former chat show host Trisha Goddard has answered some of the most common Christmas dilemmas in our Christmas Digital Issue, guest-edited by Martine McCutcheon. What can you do if you dread spending time with certain relatives? How can you find some "me time" amongst all the family time? And what do you give the person who has everything?
Martine McCutcheon stars on our Christmas Digital Cover
How to avoid arguments at the dinner table…
When you send out the invitations or email family members to invite them, it's worth telling them who else will be there. That way there won't be any surprises! You may want to follow up with a phone call asking them to help you in keeping the peace. If everyone gets the same message it lessens the chance of conflict.
On a personal note, one thing I did one year was only to serve low-alcohol beers and have fun cocktail alternatives to lower the chances of drunkenness fuelling fights!
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What to do if you dread spending time with your family/your in-laws….
Whatever plans you have to get together with them, have somewhere else to go right afterwards so it's not just something that drags on and on. Obviously, let them know beforehand! Also, better to meet up in the morning for brunch. Less likely to have alcohol around, which again can only help fuel conflict caused by discomfort.
What to do if you feel obliged to go to a party you don't want to…
Definitely tell your partner/friend/whoever you are going to this party with that you're not over the moon to have been invited. It's always better to have an ally before you even get to the venue! Plan an early getaway. And as much as you may be tempted to, don't use booze in the mistaken belief that it will help you bear the unbearable.
How to have some "me time" among all the family time…
My thing is definitely to go for a run. And if you have a dog, all the better. Taking Rover for walkies is always a good excuse to get out on your own. Another thing I do is not to have a shower in the morning! I just have a quick wash. That means that at any time later in the day I can suddenly realise I'm getting a tad whiff (yay!) and need to slink off for a long hot relaxing soak in the bath or a nice hot shower!
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Where to put a "difficult" person on the seating plan…
Think long and hard as to whether you actually want to have this "difficult" person at the dinner table. If you have no choice but to invite them, you can always do a Christmas buffet, which although not very traditional, definitely solves the problem of who sits where.
Or have a brunch or afternoon tea and invite the "difficult" person to that instead! It means you still see them over the festive season, but not in a situation where anyone (or you!) might feel trapped.
Trisha Goddard answers your common Christmas dilemmas
How to avoid stress in the lead-up to Christmas...
There's no reason why you shouldn't start buying gifts whenever the sales come up. Better to squirrel potential gifts away during the year, then leave it all to the last moment.
With regards to food preparation, you can always co-opt other family members/friends to make different parts of the meal. I've noticed that where I live here in the USA, people are far more open to "bringing a plate". In other words, while the host may make the main course, friends will bring a starter or a dessert. It's a great idea for not leaving everything up to just one person!
RECIPE: Gordon Ramsay's alternative dessert to Christmas pudding
How to combat the feeling of loneliness or anxiety at Christmas…
There's nothing like traditional family celebrations to amplify feelings of loneliness for those not able to be with theirs for whatever reason. Volunteer! There are organizations which need help serving meals to the homeless or less fortunate. Not only are you contributing to the real essence of Christmas, you'll meet other people in similar situations as yourself and the shared feeling of giving back will make you feel more fortunate and valued.
Remember many local pubs do Christmas meals/quizzes and so on. So if you're brave enough, you could always ask your local if they are doing something, say that you will be alone for Christmas, and ask what would be a good time to drop in during the day.
What to give the person who has everything...
Remember, it's only your perception that they "have everything". Nobody has absolutely everything, although materialistically it may seem that way! There are great websites that allow you to design personalised gifts with photos you may have that capture great moments you've had together: grandchildren, graduation and so on. Perfumed candles are always a lovely gift.
And sometimes the best gift you can give them is a promise (best written in a pretty card): to babysit, to dog walk, to plan a trip to an art gallery or go ice-skating together…. In other words: a gift of your time and company!
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