Have a stress-free Christmas

There's no avoiding it - Christmas brings with it a whole new kind of madness. Between the shopping, the baking and cooking, the wrapping, decorating, tidying and cleaning, it's no wonder that the festive season can become stressful. But, while it's always likely to be hectic, there are a few things you can do to stay calm and minimise your stress levels as the day approaches.

Woman wrapping xmas presents
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Be prepared
There are only so many hours in the day and days before Christmas - in order to avoid a stress headache, be sure to plan effectively. Tick off the presents bought and wrapped, chores to be done and, prior to the day itself, prepare as much of the food as possible so that it's ready to go - If needs be write down the Christmas dinner timings to avoid rushing around like a tearful, headless chicken.

A little at a time
Too often, we leave everything until the last minute but instead of trying to cram everything in on Christmas Eve, do just a little each day. Set out what you need to do for the day - for instance, clean one room each day in the run-up rather than blitzing or buy basic supplies that might run out (such as bread and milk) and freeze them. And you'd be amazed how much easier life is if you wrap presents as you buy them instead of all in one go.

Occupy the children
It's easy to forget how exciting Christmas is for the little ones. But instead of snapping at the inevitable "I'm bored" or stressing out because they're under your feet, get the children involved. From decorating the tree to helping to make mince pies and cookies or dusting and polishing, a spot of delegation keeps the kids occupied and gets the odd job done too.

Keep the in-laws happy
If you struggle to cope with a judgmental mother-in-law or a hard-to-please father-in-law, you're not alone. Minimise the potential for moaning by keeping a smile on your face (even if that means biting your lip and heading to a happy place!). If there is a particular tradition or food item that your partner's parents enjoy, be sure to include it in your family Christmas - it will make it easier to please them. And if you really don't get along, ensure that there are plenty of other family members around to take the pressure off you.

Take a break
It might seem impossible to squeeze everything in with such a short amount of time left, but that's precisely the time to take a break. Grab a breath of fresh air for some much-needed invigoration - it's so much easier to get things done when you have a clear head. If the kids and dog are getting under your feet, take them with you and enjoy some family time or shut yourself away for a hot bath. Newly refreshed, you'll be better able to get all those tasks finished.

Get into the spirit
When the pressure mounts up, it's easy to forget all about enjoying yourself. But get into the spirit of the season and it will remind you what all the rushing around is for - have a Christmas tipple as you cook, settle down for a festive movie one evening or take a step back to watch your family laughing and enjoying themselves and it might just seem worth it!