Let’s face it, you can’t entirely escape Christmas unless you have a private island and either a group of like-minded Scrooge-y chums, or a fondness for your own company.
Even if you love this time of year, it's good to block out the festive crazy at least once a day. If you don’t, your mind will turn to tinsel and you’ll start buying chocolate sprouts. I came this close to buying a family pack of Christmas jumpers, and managed to stop myself by picturing my actual, real husband and children (as opposed to fantasy festive family below) wearing said jumpers… not happy, not happy at all.
It’s almost like I have to go around slapping myself out of this festive hysteria – put down the stuffed penguin! Move away from the glittery reindeer!
If, like me, you’re struggling to stay sane this season, try these five tips to beat the Christmas crazy.
1. Be an adult
When everything is Christmas, you start to function like a child with a credit card. This is both dangerous and the basis of the Western economy.
In TA (transactional analysis), the Self is viewed as having three parts or ego states – Parent, Adult and Child. The Parent is your bossy part (also the critical voice), the Child is … "really?? Do I need to spell it out for you?" (That’s my critical parent part talking to your child). We move in and out of these states all the time.
The Adult part is the calm, smart, wise part. It’s the eye of the Christmas storm, the part of you that stands amid the chaos of shoppers and thinks: This is madness, I’m off to the pub sign up for some voluntary work and contribute something positive to the world.
Find some quiet time and meditate. Practise every day until you get really good at it. Close your eyes, and pay attention to first the sounds in your room, then your breath. Count ten breaths, then begin again. Whenever you feel your mind wander, which it will do, politely bring it back to your breath. You should probably set a timer, with a gentle prayer bell tinkle rather than a fog horn, for ten or fifteen minutes to rouse you from stupor. When you open your eyes, notice if you feel clearer in your mind and calmer in your heart. Your inner adult will now know what to do.
3. Resist the Christmas candle
After the crazy Christmas fairy in your head has calmed down, you’ll see it is just a candle. It smells a bit like pine and spice. After a couple of goes it starts to gather ennui. Some family members will complain the smell makes them feel sick. You’ll remember how much it cost, work out how many bottles of wine that works out at, and begin to resent it.
4. Embrace failure
Trying to find The Perfect Present, cook The Best Turkey or have The Most Stylish Table Decorations is a recipe for nervous breakdown. Channel the 1970s, apart from the horrendously sexist bits, obviously. Put your other half in charge of all of the above, and tell him you’ll be pouring drinks and putting the bins out. Remember, Christmas is all about everyone behaving exactly like you don’t want them to, then resenting you for making them play charades, read the jokes in their crackers and talk to other people. Watch your family as though viewing an episode of your favourite soap opera, or – if things get a bit disturbing – a Lars Von Trier movie.
One friend suggested closing your eyes, imagining everyone who annoyed you had died and you were going to their funeral, then open your eyes. They’re alive! Hurray!
Alternatively, turn on the TV and watch that instead. Works for most people.
The best way to enjoy Christmas is to not have to cook (unless you enjoy cooking. In which case, where do you live? And do you have room enough for four more plus a grumpy cat..?). My Christmas gatecrash dream would be in a cosy country manor with a five bubble spa – somewhere like Chewton Glen, Cliveden – or perhaps the Maldives. I wish. More likely, we'll be off to the in-laws again...