The Pressure of Christmas

Oh no, It is that time of year again! I could have sworn it was only last week when I put last years decorations away, but no … it is here again, the Christmas madness. This matter was brought to my attention this week when my friend Sally popped in for a chat. She stomped in to my kitchen, dropped her bag on the floor and drinking a well-earned glass of vino, burst into tears. Between the sobs I heard about the numerous pressures of her life. Buying and affording presents for numerous family members, undertaking a very demanding work project, a heavily pregnant daughter who needed help with her older children’s’ childcare, a sick mother and “poisonous” father in law, a husband who works abroad and the problem of looking after all these folk and cooking Christmas lunch when she had a business trip to Scotland the week before the dreaded day. “And” said Sally “as if that is not enough, my sister has gone off to work in an animal sanctuary looking after monkeys in Costa Rica and I have her four adult children as well! I am so, so angry and jealous”.

The wonderful thing about friends is that you can move from this sort of despair to laughter in a very short amount of time. So within an hour we were both howling with laughter and joking about what we might wear for Christmas lunch so we looked fabulous, as we cooked this, “oh so perfect” Christmas meal. My personal choice would be a reindeer onesie …. from table to bed – perfect!

Sally of course is not alone, and for busy families everywhere Christmas can soon become a real trial if we let it take its own momentum. So here are some tips to get you through this busy period with a smile on you face and cheer in your heart.

  • For all you women out there, first sort out your outfit for the day! This need not be expensive. Supermarkets have great deals and charity shops have great finds at this time of year. It will make you feel in control and you will look fab. Make sure it is easy to wear.
  • Boundaries, boundaries and boundaries! Ensure you agree when folk are coming and going and stick to it. Guests, like fish, go off, so keep it short, fun and sharp.
  • Give everyone something to bring. Christmas is an expensive time and you do not have to shoulder all the expense. Delegate!
  • Give everyone a job, even the young and old.
  • Cheat! Of course we all love to look at the wonderful cooking programmes, and we all dream about “sashaying” around our Christmas table looking seductive like Nigella, but the reality is somewhat different from TV cooking. SO cheat a little – all the supermarkets let you do this easily. Don’t let their effort be wasted! Use it and do not feel guilt. If you get compliments just smile and take it.
  • Keep it simple. It really is just a Sunday roast tarted up a bit. Do not let your thinking make it more than this!
  • Give everyone a job.
  • Plan events and games. This keeps everyone occupied and stops family arguments.
  • Do not bother with all the presents. Every year, so much is wasted, unwanted or unused and so many of us run up debt doing it – madness isn’t it? Why not do a group donation to a local charity or buy yourselves a day out with friends and family. If you must do presents, why not just do a bran tub.
  • Plan a reward day for yourself after it is all over, perhaps a walk, spa day, cinema treat or duvet day … your choice!

Have a great Christmas!


The Dangers of the Office Party

Christmas is a fun time of year. All around us are images of people having fun, in perfect houses with perfect families. The reality of course is somewhat different. Many families are under financial pressure, and these pressures sometimes spill over into intimate relationships and put them at risk. The combination of relationship and family conflict, along with increased socialising and alcohol intake can be a heady mix, and make the world outside the family seem a seductive place. Nowhere is this truer than in the work place, and especially at the office party. By comparison to home, where the kids are screaming, the grandparents are squabbling, and adult siblings are adding to the tension, the office party is an oasis of calm and temptation.

It gives us an injection of glamour when we dress up, and we get a sense of our sexual self. For mums who have babies this may be the first time they have been out without regurgitated milk down their front for some time. Add a few Chardonnays to the mix and you are invincible, you can sing, dance and you are the life and soul of the party. You then notice the person you thought mildly attractive, is in fact a sex god and your resistance is lowered. A snatched moment of pleasure in a brief fling can leave in its wake great turmoil, particularly if the code of your committed relationship is monogamy. At best you have the embarrassment of going back to working with the Sex God, who has sadly returned to Mr Average. At worst, you are left coping with guilt at having broken the code of your relationship, as well as a traumatised partner who, if they find out, may be unsure as to whether they can handle the break in trust.

Remember no relationship is full-proof but there are some strategies that couples can adopt at this time of year and through the year to make this less likely.

* Do not ignore conflicts, always communicate, this is vital.

* Christmas can be a difficult family festival. Be realistic in your expectations of the season and keep your sense of humour.

* Maintain boundaries with others, have fun but keep the boundary clear.

* Take care with relaxants such as alcohol. We easily become a person who in the cold light of day we do not recognise.

* Do not be egged on by others. Some folk love to see others make a fool of themselves, do not be that fool!

If your relationship is under stress because of an affair, or any other reason, seek help in working through this. A Sexual and Relationship Therapist can be key in helping a couple recover. Relationships can recover and grow but it needs both parties to honestly appraise the relationship and work forward so the trust can be rebuilt.

Relationship Therapists can be found through Local Counselling Centre

Or contact Kathy Freeman on 01462 674671 option 2 or email

Jo Coker