It’s November, which means that Christmas is looming – and judging by various conversations I’ve had recently, loads of readers are already stressed about it. So, let’s look at the most common problems and try to avoid them.

1. Perfectionism

Do you put pressure on yourself to make Christmas perfect?

If you do, please take on board that striving for perfection is a huge strain, not just on you but those around you.

Do your nearest and dearest want you to wear yourself to a frazzle? I doubt it. Perfection, in truth, is in very short supply and its pursuit tends to lead to tears of disappointment and fatigue.

So why not simply aim to be ‘good enough’? And resist the impulse to shop till you drop and embark upon a schedule of cooking that would put Jamie Oliver to shame.

Try talking to your family about what they’d like from the festive season. I bet they’ll come up with words like ‘comfort’, ‘happiness’ and ‘relaxation’, rather than ‘perfect home-made canapés.’

So, settle for having a fun rather than frantic Christmas, and achieving something rather more ordinary than ‘perfect’. You’ll probably enjoy the festivities more. And so will those around you.

2. Watch Your Spending

As a therapist I’ve counselled lots of patients who were unhappy with their parenting because they were never hugged, or listened to, or were punished excessively. But I’ve never seen anyone who believed their childhood was ruined because they weren’t given expensive presents.

Please file this fact away in your mind because this year, money is going to be a worry for many. So, stick to sensible rules rather than land yourself with eye-watering credit card bills in January.

  • Keep in mind a budget per person and stick to it.
  • Do your shopping, online or in real shops, when you’re totally sober
  • Buy cards only for people you really care for. Hand-deliver where you can and post the rest early enough to send second class
  • Instigate a Secret Santa scheme for all adults in your family so that everyone just buys one present. Other relatives will thank you for this.
  • When food shopping during the run up to Christmas, take advantage of markets, and local shops rather than fitting in a late visit to a supermarket which is so crowded you end up buying too much because you can’t think straight. And purchase food for two or three days only, rather than stock up as if shops will shut forever. You won’t starve, and you’ll save a lot of waste.
  • Make a gift of your time – such as an offer of babysitting once a month – to people who might well prefer that to a costly present.

3. Overcrowding and overeating

Festive seasons in the past often ended badly because they involved too many people holed up in small spaces, eating and drinking more than was good for them.

After the disruption of the pandemic, plenty of individuals are up for something different, and feel reluctant to go back to traditions and routines they never really enjoyed. So, this is a good year to make changes.

Consider having different people on different days rather than an exhausting and overcrowded gathering with the entire family. Schedule activities, instead of allowing too much sitting around, watching TV and overindulging in food and drink.

Try a country walk. A family football game in the park. A Monopoly tournament. Or perhaps a baking session with grandchildren in the kitchen. These are new times. and you can create new traditions to fit with the men and women we’ve become.

4. Being Alone

I do know that it’s going to feel hard if this is to be your first festive season since a long-term relationship broke up, or you were widowed. It’s also tough if this is a year when your ex has your offspring.

Or your children decide to take their families on a skiing holiday. But do try not to regard Christmas Day as a disaster or a wash-out. Instead, focus on other days and make plans for family celebrations the week before, or have a night out with friends on Christmas Eve, or invite people round at New Year.

And on the 25th, use your free time for something purposeful. We all have a list of tasks that never get done because we’re too busy. Well, Christmas Day could be a great opportunity to paint those kitchen shelves, and you’ll gain a sense of achievement, which will cheer you up.

You could also enlist as a volunteer. The charity Crisis may still be looking for people.

Your local hospital might have a scheme you could help with. Or perhaps you could relieve the stress someone else is suffering. For example, sit with a friend’s elderly parent to give her a break, or take a neighbour’s kids to the park while she has a sleep. Helping someone else is one of the best ways I know to help yourself to a better mood.

Some Christmases are great. Some, I’m afraid, are not. But whatever happens, the 25th of December only lasts for 24 hours; the same as every other day.

So, resolve now to make the most of it in whatever way suits you.

Best of luck.