5 Ways to Stay Sane During the Festive Season

dashing through the no

“And so it’s Christmas, and what have you done?” Sang John Lennon. Well the truth is, I’ve done bugger all over the last few days except for play the brilliant Walking Dead game on the iPhone.

Why? Because I get a bit overwhelmed by just the thought of Christmas. Here’s a few ways of coping that I find work.

1. Hide

Yes, you heard me. Run, run, as fast as your little legs can carry you and hide under the bed, or a table or something. Millie, the cat we adopted last year is a nervous wee soul who goes skittering out of the room at the slightest noise. I advise you to follow her lead this Christmas, and find a cardboard box or sock drawer to squeeze yourself into.

On a more serious note, if you are like me and you need time by yourself each day, make sure you schedule in some breaks when you can go off on your own for a while and read a book, meditate, go for a run or even maybe do something creative like writing or drawing – it will make a massive difference to your mental health, believe me.

If you feel refreshed from some alone time it can only help improve how you relate to your family and friends. If you start to feel trapped and overwhelmed, you could say or do something you regret (especially if alcohol is involved -see step 2).

2. Drink & Eat Less

Yeah right! Right? Don’t get me wrong, I love eating and drinking as much as you, but there’s nothing worse than lying awake for hours with heartburn because you ate the equivalent of a small tribal village’s annual dietary intake by yourself.

Or telling Uncle Frank where he can stick the remote control during the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special because he brought up that embarrassing incident from 11 Christmases ago in front of your fiancée.

However impossible this may sound, it is in fact entirely possible if you follow step one and be completely antisocial like me. It’s amazing how much of the Christmas experience revolves around the communal experience of passive aggressive social pressure, boredom and feelings of being trapped (or maybe that time I fell down a well with only rodents for company has soured my perceptions).

Of course the problem is, it’s nice to have an excuse to over-indulge once in a while and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem is many people already eat and drink too much throughout the rest of the year! Christmas then becomes an excuse to overindulge to Man Vs Food levels of ridiculousness.

This will be my first ever sober Christmas so it will be a novel experience to spend the day watching my wife getting slowly more drunk. Also, as its my first Christmas as a freelancer, I’ve not been invited to any Christmas parties which has been a bit of a relief to be honest. The likelihood is however that I’ll make up for being sober by shovelling huge lumps of iced fruit cake into my mouth with my bare hands.

3. Stop Spending Now

Never does the minimalist movement seem so sensible than at this time of year. Adverts make parents feel guilty for not buying their 5 year olds the entire contents of the John Lewis electronics department, and the extortionate prices in poncy Christmas party venues are too easy to ignore until you look at your bank/credit card balance in January with the same sinking feeling as the Greek Chancellor must have every day.

So, just stop spending. Not as easy as it sounds, is it? I for one have my eye on a Big Jambox.

4. Celebrate Christmas Early

The fact that everyone is travelling home for Christmas on public transport or driving (Chris Rea’s preferred method), means that it’s madness to try to do the same. Instead, why not visit family earlier in the month and do your own thing on Christmas Day?

My wife and I have done this for several years, and believe me it is GREAT having a quiet Christmas day to ourselves, and helps avoid all the traffic, expense and need to watch crap TV for hours. We can choose to watch whatever DVD boxset we want, and she makes us a “traditional” vegetarian Christmas dinner which is perfect and doesn’t come with the usual raised eyebrows of my unconvinced carnivore kin.

Yes, it is antisocial but it’s a great solution if you tend to get easily stressed out by big get togethers (sorry if this is too late for 2012, but keep it in mind for next year!).

5. Give January Gifts

It’s too much pressure to find decent gifts for everyone at the end of December when you have to fight your way through hoards of zombie like shoppers. Far better to wait until after Christmas when most things are reduced, and then surprise that family member or friend with a January gift.

This is a slightly risky strategy as they are probably holding a grudge against you for not buying them any Christmas presents, but if the gift is more thoughtful than the average socks & chocolate orange combination they’ll probably forgive you.

If you’re one of those talented crafty creative types, you can get handy with a needle and thread or some scissors, glue and discarded wrapping paper to make some kind of unique papier mache monster which will be much more welcome than another bar of soap or unwelcome ornament.

And with that bitter dose of “bah humbug” over and done with, I genuinely bid you a very merry festive season!

Do you have any tips for surviving the festive season or do you think I need to be less Scrooge-like?