1. Watch It’s A Wonderful Life and pretend that’s the reason why you’re crying
Thank goodness for this film and the perfect excuse it gives us to ball our eyes out without drawing anybody’s attention. This film breaks me every time – the bit with Mr Gower and the wrong pills, the part where Mary tells the children to pray for their father, and the bit at the end (which I won’t spoil, just in case). I’m welling up even as I write this.
But as well as crying at the film itself, I know I’m also blubbing about the year gone by, about all the emotions that Christmas makes you feel, and out of sheer bloody exhaustion. After the year we’ve had, it might be a good idea for us to pop the film on now in the hope that we’ll have pulled ourselves back together by Christmas day.
2. Repeat after me: I am not responsible for anybody else’s fun
I feel a bit anxious ahead of social occasions, but saying this to myself – and truly believing it too – has really made me feel better. You are not responsible for other people having a good time. Be nice to people, sure, and buy them nice presents if you’re that way inclined, but don’t panic that if you’re not on absolute top form then the entire festive season will be thrown in the bin.
Everybody participating in Christmas – or any other holiday – has to bring something to the table, whether it’s good humour, cracking anecdotes or, ideally, gin. It’s not all on you. Now breathe deeply, have a mince pie and enjoy yourself.
3. Buy something new to wear on Christmas Day if you want to – but don’t if you don’t
Be honest, how inadequate are you currently feeling about the glittery-ness of your wardrobe? Your total inability to transform from a normal human being into a sequin adorned princess? I’m guessing quite. Advertising is good isn’t it! But you do know you can just wear something you already own, don’t you? Or that if you do buy something new it doesn’t have to double up as a light source? They should really cover this in school.
I have the Christmas day outfit dilemma every year. This December’s quandary goes like this – do I wear my gold skirt which is covered in so many sequins that every time I walk one of them tries to take a slice out of my leg? Or my new silver skirt, the material of which is so synthetic that when I wear it with a coat, the lining lifts it entirely, exposing, well, everything? As long as I’m not required to move an inch throughout Christmas Day, I guess either outfit will be fine.
4. Reserve the right to say no to social activities
Just a short sharp reminder that your human rights remain intact at Christmas time and if you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to. Or if you do want to but you’re already party-ed/shopped/prosecco-ed out, you’re free to make a wise decision and just stay home. Nobody is keeping tabs on how festive you’re being this year, or any year. Do what you like – as Anne. T. Donahue always says in her excellent newsletter: NOBODY CARES.
5. Make plans to see people in January
“I HAVE to see you before Christmas!”
“But we’ll see each other before Christmas, RIGHT?!”
Umm, probably not now. We’re into December and any days or nights people do have free are being kept that way to help them recover from all the days and nights they’re out celebrating this joyous time of year.
But guess what – it’s OK! We can see each other in the New Year when we’re all just counting down until March and the prospect of daylight lasting for longer than an hour and need some social interaction to help cheer us up.
I understand the want to see friends and family before Christmas, to remind them that you love them at this oddly emotive time of year, but don’t create pressure that doesn’t need to be there. Sometimes the kindest thing you can say to someone you care about is: you don’t need to worry about seeing me right now, let’s do it another time.
6. See the ‘end of year effect’ coming
Every year on about the 16th of December I start to feel sick. There’s nothing wrong with me, my body just becomes desperate for a rest. All of a sudden I’m making it participate in more socialising in a month than I’ve done throughout the rest of the year and, frankly, it’s not having it. Add that to tiredness I’ve accumulated during yet another 12 months of being a grown-ass woman and I’m just about ready to collapse into a heap at any moment.
This has happened enough years in a row now to make me think it must happen to other people too. But now I prepare for it and this is my advice should you wish to too: see it coming. Avoid going out multiple nights on the trot. Re-read point 4 on this list. Try to eat some of your meals in your own home. Drink plenty of water. Do some really good, deep breathing. Schedule a bath and an early night. Everything really will look and feel better in the morning.
7. Don’t fall into the ‘I haven’t bought mum/dad/the dog enough presents’ trap
BUT WHAT IF THEY DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TO OPEN? is my number one Christmas Day based fear, closely followed by ‘What if I accidentally catch my hair on fire on a candle’ and ‘What if my Christmas socks are in the wash and I don’t get to wear them on the ONE day they were designed for?’
It’s always there, waking me up in the middle of the night, listing everything I’ve bought so far, tutting and whispering “Really, is that all?”
But this year I’m determined not to fall for it. We are all so extremely fortunate that it is ridiculous to think that if we don’t all have thirty five presents to open we’re going to suddenly combust. So say no to the Christmas Eve panic that sees you dashing to the novelty gift section of your local department store and seriously considering buying your nearest and dearest a book of fart jokes just so that there’s more under the tree.
For everybody’s sake, hold onto your money.