Grace’s Really Really Useful Christmas Survival Guide

Christmas is an emotive time of year isn’t it. Can be huge fun, annoyingly chaotic, heartwarming to spend time with your family or, for all too many people, extremely lonely. Well, for 2020 we are swapping Christmas baubles for Christmas Bubbles and things (if everyone sticks to the rules) are going to be rather different this year. I am not going to list the extensive government guidelines, but try and offer you a really useful Christmas survival guide…

Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

£££££££££££££££ A typical household usually spends £800 extra in December according to the Bank of England. Should be less this year as, of course, we won’t be dolling ourselves up and meeting friends in the usual long lead up to the jolly holiday. ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: At least we won’t have to wear feet-crippling high heels.

But there will still be gifts and festive food to organise. So it makes sense to make a list of everything you’d like to buy and set a realistic budget for each item. And, of course, only buy those things if you can afford them. Speak with your family and friends and come to an agreement not to buy each other gifts this year or set a low budget per present (a relief to us all!) As they say, it’s the thought that counts. You could make homemade presents, look for bargains online, or organise a Secret Santa.

Visiting family If you’re travelling by public transport to visit family or friends between 23 – 27 December, it’s best to pre-book tickets as the capacity of services will remain reduced to allow for social distancing. ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: Trains will be less crowded. If you’re driving, the government promises around 500 miles of roadworks will be cleared to ease congestion on motorways over the festive period.

Not enough time? Buying Christmas presents, wrapping gifts and decorating our homes can be stressful and tiring. Buying gifts online has benefits – you get a world of choice and parcels are conveniently delivered (often free of charge) to your door. ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: Click here for some original gift ideas. As there are probably very few food delivery slots left by now, go to the supermarket during quiet times – less queues at the tills and easier to social distance. Just Google your local supermarket and you’ll find this helpful information:

There’s no need to be on your own Unless you truly relish the idea of Christmas alone, you can do something about it now. If you’ve already turned down invitations, you may regret it and feel lonely afterwards, so call them back and say “yes”. This is particularly important this year when we will be limited to three households, so if they’ve asked you, they really want you to come along!

Volunteer. It’s a fantastic way to connect with others, boost your self-esteem, bring joy to people who are less fortunate, and you will feel appreciated. You could help at a soup kitchen, food bank, a children’s hospital, or visit residents at a nursing home. Your local church, community organisation and/or council should be able to point you in the right direction.

Host an Online Christmas Do you have online friends? Do you have long-distance relatives? Set up a Skype chatroom or Facebook group. People can drop in and out as they please, and you don’t have to cook, clean, or even get off the sofa.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are the one cooking on Christmas Day, don’t take it all upon yourself. Ask other family members to bring different elements of the meal – canapes, salads, cheese or desserts for example. Alternatively, delegate tasks in the kitchen and get your family to help out. Cheat – buy ready made stuffing, Yorkshires or puddings. Try not to get stressed – it’s only a glorified Sunday lunch after all.

Everything in moderation Although it’s tempting, you’ll be glad if you don’t overeat and if you alternate booze with soft drinks. Having a bit of a binge on the big day is one thing – overeating and drinking over the whole holiday is another. Although alcohol might make you feel more relaxed, remember it’s a depressant and can cause low mood, irritability or even aggressive behaviour. It’s very easy to get carried away. ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: you won’t have a hangover or put on too much weight!

Family tensions For many people, Christmas can turn tricky with relatives getting argumentative. Accept that your family is not perfect and that they will probably say things you don’t like, but don’t let it spoil your day. Keep clear of risky conversation topics, supplying too much alcohol, and try and get everyone involved in a group activity such as silly games or a walk in the fresh air. If you do get a bit stressed, take a few deep breaths to help you relax – it really does work. Go for a few minutes walk or a quick bike ride if there’s nowhere in the house that you can escape to.

Keep children occupied There are three things kids need every day: exercise, entertainment and food. Ask them to put their electronics away and join in the Christmas spirit, for example, by making place names for the table or having a lovely chat with granny.

MOST OF ALL Don’t expect Christmas Day to be perfect. Things don’t always go to plan, but it really isn’t the end of the world.

Get active  Find some time to do some exercise during the Xmas break. A brisk walk or cycle will help work off those second helpings you may have had. Getting active will also help you feel normal again and dispel any festive cabin fever. After the holiday, go back to your usual hobbies and pastimes as quickly as possible.