I know, it's not even December yet and I'm talking about Christmas! But there's method in my madness, because, as far as Christmas is concerned, if you want to keep it stress free, it pays to get organised.
Planning ahead can really make the day go more smoothly and help you to sail through all the preparations with enough energy left to enjoy the day itself.
Here are my 7 top tips for having a fun and relaxed Christmas.
1. Decide What Kind Of Christmas YOU Want
It's easy to get carried away on the promise of a perfect Christmas - especially now the Christmas adverts seem to run continuously on TV. So, sit down with the family and discuss what's important about Christmas. Is it all about the presents and perfect food, or is it about something more? What memories do you want to create this Christmas? How does everyone want to feel at the end of the day? What's the meaning of Christmas for everyone? As long as you focus on what's important about Christmas and satisfy that, all the other stuff becomes less relevant. And if that means escaping to the sun and ignoring Christmas completely, do it and allow yourself to be guilt free.
2. Plan Ahead
Have a list of everything that needs to be done, when it needs to be done by and, who is going to do it. And write it all down. Trying to store things in your memory at this time of year will just add to your stress. Don't try to do it all yourself - you'll just end up frazzled and spoil Christmas for yourself and those around you. Get a cleaner in - it's only once a year, or spread the load of house cleaning throughout the month so that you're just left with a final tidy the couple of days before Christmas. Use bribery if necessary to get things done without doing them yourself. Allocate your time realistically and leave space in your schedule for nights out and time to relax.
Decide what you're going to spend and stick to it. Of course that's just common sense, but it can be difficult with all the tempting treats that the shops have on offer. Have a list before you go shopping and go online and check for bargains - it's much easier to shop around in the comfort of your own home. But if you're buying on line, keep track of what you've bought and when it's delivered or that credit card bill in January could get pretty confusing. To keep budgets within control, agree spending limits for presents with family and friends or agree to only buy presents for the children. Ask yourself what else you would like to spend the money on, if you weren't being so extravagant with presents. Remember, Lothian Reflexology gift vouchers are 20% off now.
4. Be Realistic
Make sure that your expectations of the day are realistic - don't expect people who don't get on to be BFF's on Christmas Day. Christmas can be a stressful time for everyone, it's not the right time to be mending fences. And, as much as possible, manage the family's expectations - tell them in advance what to expect and involve them in the preparations.
5. Schedule Christmas Day
Try writing a Christmas Day timetable of what needs done, when and by whom - remember, delegate as much as possible. Get your cooking timings written down - it's one less thing to think about on the day - then follow it. And make sure it's not all work, work, work - you don't want to be tied to the kitchen when everyone else is relaxed and having fun. Make sure you schedule some fun time into the day for yourself - go for a walk or cycle or just take 15 minutes out to be by yourself and relax.
6. Keep Healthy
You'll cope much better with all the activity around Christmas if you take the time to look after yourself. And I'm not talking a weekend break in a Spa - though that would be lovely - but just the basics: get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, get regular exercise, take your 5-a-day, and relax for at least 15 minutes every day. It's a good time of year to book an extra Reflexology or Indian Head Massage appointment, just to keep you on an even keel.
7. Decide When To Stop
Decide at what point you will stop preparing for Christmas and start enjoying it. Is Christmas Eve the time to put your feet up, or maybe go into town with the family and enjoy the Christmas lights? Make sure you schedule the fun in with all the work.
And here's a couple of lovely ways to get ready for next Christmas.