This is the time of year when I buy a small notebook – my Christmas notebook and my companion for the next few weeks in the build-up to the biggest stress-fest of the year. In it I jot down everything that I have to remember pertaining to Christmas. For instance, here are the past three entries: the number of a reliable babysitter, the e-mail address of a business selling fishing rods my aunt’s new address scribbled in on the day she moved, thus saving frantic phone calls on the last posting day before Christmas.
Buying a special notebook is one Christmas stress-defusing tip that works for me. Over the years I have written many an article on achieving a stress-free Christmas but most of the advice is epitomised by that of the professional domestic goddess whom I once interviewed. Her top tip was: “Always make your Stollen two weeks in advance.” And for those homes where it just ain’t Christmas without the home-made Stollen, this is very good advice.
For the rest of us, here is the advice that works for me.
● Start early. You will enjoy Christmas if you start a slow burn of anticipation mid-November by buying the odd present in your lunch hour. Keep a shoebox brimful of cards by your armchair and scribble a few each night. Play some carols, pour a glass of wine, get in the mood. You are allowed to enjoy yourself and, if you start early, you might even manage it.
● But if you leave it to the last minuteblitz gift-buying. Confine shopping to one day and one store. Start at nine, finish at six. Limited choice hones decision-making.
● Use carrots. Promise yourself a glass of bubbly under the tree at 8pm on Christmas Eve. You will find as if by magic that it is all done by then. Similarly, if your Christmas day is stressful, plan ahead to have 30 minutes doing exactly what you like to do in the evening. The thought of it will keep you going all day.
Elisabeth Wilson is a counsellor and author of Stress-Proof your Life and Boundless Energy (Infinite Ideas, £12.99 each).