How to have a stress-free family Christmas

Whilst it is the season to be jolly, it's not always that simple.

Last-minute presents, dealing with the in-laws, over-excited children and the decision over where to spend Christmas Day all contribute to stress. If you're hosting friends and family, it can be easy to feel under pressure.

So, what can you do if all the preparations are starting to get to you?

If things are getting stressful, keep these tips in mind:

1. Where to spend Christmas Day 

It’s a decision that many families face each year. It can cause a headache for fear of offending someone because you’ve decided to go elsewhere or stay at home.

If you have young children, you may want to opt to spend Christmas Day at your own home. Children often feel comfortable with their own routine and their own things around them when they are young. Avoiding having to travel great distances can make a lot of sense.

If your relationship is not as positive with other family members, then choose not to see them on Christmas Day. You could decide to keep Christmas between close family, and visit your extended family later, over Boxing Day and New Year.

2. A traditional turkey, a goose – or something else?

It's difficult trying to please everyone – and you can’t please everyone all of the time. However, you can avoid difficulties by checking in advance if guests have dietary needs. There are many recipes available online to cater for vegetarians, vegans or people with food allergies.

If you're hosting, you can ask people to help. Your guests can help you to set the table or serve drinks. If you’re catering for a large party, then ask everyone to bring a dish. That means everyone has a valued contribution and it’s less work for you hosting.

3. Difficult in-laws

All joking aside, Christmas is the time of year when you spend time with everyone, including your in-laws. The close proximity of the celebrations can sometimes place a strain on relationships. People may resent having to spend more time than they would like with a partner’s parents or siblings.

Once the decision is made about where you’re spending Christmas and who with, stay positive and open-minded. Things will seem worse if you go in with a negative mindset. Try to steer clear of subjects that may cause awkward conversations or arguments.

4. Keeping everyone happy

Most people like to feel useful when they’ve been invited over for Christmas. Delegate little jobs such as peeling vegetables, setting the table or pouring festive drinks.

To avoid any post-dinner slumps or awkward conversation, get someone to organise post-dinner games. Dust off old board games or try a team game on the kids' games console. Consider non-TV related activities this year. It’s unlikely everyone will want to watch the same thing and a more interactive activity keeps everyone involved and continues the festive spirit.

5. Surviving two or three days in a row…

It can be tricky if guests have stayed beyond Boxing Day and are getting under each other’s feet. Plan some fun activities for all the family. Catch the local pantomime, go out for a walk or, if it has snowed, get everyone involved in building a snowman. Anything that will get everyone out of the house for a few hours will help improve your state of mind.

Another important thing to remember is that you can step away if things feel too stressful. Having a few moments to yourself can help you to stay relaxed in the midst of a busy celebration.

Further information:

The Christmas season isn’t always easy. If you’re a Benenden Health member, you can access our Mental Health Helpline 24/7. Whether you're suffering from anxiety, depression, bereavement or relationship problems, we can make sure you don’t have to handle it alone by providing access to an experienced therapist.