My story

5 Ways to Stay Sane During the Festive Season

dashing through the no

“And so it’s Christmas, and what have you done?” Sang John Lennon. Well the truth is, I’ve done bugger all over the last few days except for play the brilliant Walking Dead game on the iPhone.

Why? Because I get a bit overwhelmed by just the thought of Christmas. Here’s a few ways of coping that I find work.

1. Hide

Yes, you heard me. Run, run, as fast as your little legs can carry you and hide under the bed, or a table or something. Millie, the cat we adopted last year is a nervous wee soul who goes skittering out of the room at the slightest noise. I advise you to follow her lead this Christmas, and find a cardboard box or sock drawer to squeeze yourself into.

On a more serious note, if you are like me and you need time by yourself each day, make sure you schedule in some breaks when you can go off on your own for a while and read a book, meditate, go for a run or even maybe do something creative like writing or drawing – it will make a massive difference to your mental health, believe me.

If you feel refreshed from some alone time it can only help improve how you relate to your family and friends. If you start to feel trapped and overwhelmed, you could say or do something you regret (especially if alcohol is involved -see step 2).

2. Drink & Eat Less

Yeah right! Right? Don’t get me wrong, I love eating and drinking as much as you, but there’s nothing worse than lying awake for hours with heartburn because you ate the equivalent of a small tribal village’s annual dietary intake by yourself.

Or telling Uncle Frank where he can stick the remote control during the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special because he brought up that embarrassing incident from 11 Christmases ago in front of your fiancée.

However impossible this may sound, it is in fact entirely possible if you follow step one and be completely antisocial like me. It’s amazing how much of the Christmas experience revolves around the communal experience of passive aggressive social pressure, boredom and feelings of being trapped (or maybe that time I fell down a well with only rodents for company has soured my perceptions).

Of course the problem is, it’s nice to have an excuse to over-indulge once in a while and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem is many people already eat and drink too much throughout the rest of the year! Christmas then becomes an excuse to overindulge to Man Vs Food levels of ridiculousness.

This will be my first ever sober Christmas so it will be a novel experience to spend the day watching my wife getting slowly more drunk. Also, as its my first Christmas as a freelancer, I’ve not been invited to any Christmas parties which has been a bit of a relief to be honest. The likelihood is however that I’ll make up for being sober by shovelling huge lumps of iced fruit cake into my mouth with my bare hands.

3. Stop Spending Now

Never does the minimalist movement seem so sensible than at this time of year. Adverts make parents feel guilty for not buying their 5 year olds the entire contents of the John Lewis electronics department, and the extortionate prices in poncy Christmas party venues are too easy to ignore until you look at your bank/credit card balance in January with the same sinking feeling as the Greek Chancellor must have every day.

So, just stop spending. Not as easy as it sounds, is it? I for one have my eye on a Big Jambox.

4. Celebrate Christmas Early

The fact that everyone is travelling home for Christmas on public transport or driving (Chris Rea’s preferred method), means that it’s madness to try to do the same. Instead, why not visit family earlier in the month and do your own thing on Christmas Day?

My wife and I have done this for several years, and believe me it is GREAT having a quiet Christmas day to ourselves, and helps avoid all the traffic, expense and need to watch crap TV for hours. We can choose to watch whatever DVD boxset we want, and she makes us a “traditional” vegetarian Christmas dinner which is perfect and doesn’t come with the usual raised eyebrows of my unconvinced carnivore kin.

Yes, it is antisocial but it’s a great solution if you tend to get easily stressed out by big get togethers (sorry if this is too late for 2012, but keep it in mind for next year!).

5. Give January Gifts

It’s too much pressure to find decent gifts for everyone at the end of December when you have to fight your way through hoards of zombie like shoppers. Far better to wait until after Christmas when most things are reduced, and then surprise that family member or friend with a January gift.

This is a slightly risky strategy as they are probably holding a grudge against you for not buying them any Christmas presents, but if the gift is more thoughtful than the average socks & chocolate orange combination they’ll probably forgive you.

If you’re one of those talented crafty creative types, you can get handy with a needle and thread or some scissors, glue and discarded wrapping paper to make some kind of unique papier mache monster which will be much more welcome than another bar of soap or unwelcome ornament.

And with that bitter dose of “bah humbug” over and done with, I genuinely bid you a very merry festive season!

Do you have any tips for surviving the festive season or do you think I need to be less Scrooge-like?

10 replies on “5 Ways to Stay Sane During the Festive Season”

I’m actually feeling pretty xmas-y this year. Don’t know why. So I won’t hide. That said, both overating and overbuying aren’t really my passions. I might just stay with the drinks?! 😉
As for celebrating early, I’ve really been in the zone since yesterday evening and it has been quite enjoyable.


I don’t understand the whole ‘raised eyebrows’ thing concerning a vegetarian xmas. Everyone can’t quite understand why you’re not like them. The same with drinking. I’m quite fortunate to have a group of friends who couldn’t care less if I opt’ed for bamboo shoots, but a few relatives have raised eyebrows.

“All the other sheep are eating meat…. I find it utterly shocking and incomprehensible that you don’t want to be like the other sheep. [bleats]Whaaaaats wroooong with you?”

Merry Christmas!


Hi Steven. I know. I think the problem is that a lot of meat eaters genuinely don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to eat meat. It does sometimes feel like I have to justify it (even though I don’t question or criticise their choices).

I usually don’t want to get into a “discussion” about it so I’ll just shrug it off rather than get into an argument.

Mind you, I’m not a “proper” veggie because I also eat fish, so whilst I do have it a bit easier, I don’t completely fit in with either side of the argument.


I’ve got to be honest, my problem with vegetarianism is that I struggle to find meals that fill me up. However, that is probably just indicative of the whole over-indulgence thing, so there is little point me contributing any more on that topic!

Christmas has always been good for me – I have a very small family who are all local, so I have never had to travel far or be cooped up in big gatherings for more than a day or two. Ironically, this is the first year where I would like to make maximum use of my week and a half off work to be productive, and so for about the first time ever I feel slightly under pressure from the point of view of ‘catching up’ with people and having various gatherings.

I don’t have any particular tips to add – I think the five you mention are very sensible! I intend getting out for a run most days, and would hope to do an hour or two’s work either in the morning or evening. Despite the break being a good opportunity to relax and get rested, I just know I’m going to end up staying up late on many evenings, with my eyes disintegrating from staring at my laptop’s screen…


Interesting Paul. Maybe I should have included ‘don’t put pressure on yourself’ and ‘take a proper break, dammit!’. I can’t go too long without doing something reasonably creative myself though, so I know how that feels – and it definitely is a good opportunity to get caught up if you’re not socialising the whole time.


I’m feeling VERY un-Christmassy right now. Last year, my partner & I spent Christmas together in London which was perfect – no stress, not too many people, just taking things at our own pace. This year, I’m with family & whilst I love them…. we do not do big occasions well because we go all out and everybody gets stressed. I am currently in hiding as we speak.

Once I’ve got rid of this migraine, though, I’ll definitely be using the time to get some writing done!


Hi Kaite, sorry for delay responding – I was running around doing last minute stuff myself today!

I hope that family stress levels are kept to reasonable levels, and if not, that you find somewhere well hidden to recuperate and do some writing. Also I hope you feel just a little more Christmassy (we still haven’t managed to put our fake plastic tree up but maybe that will help!)


Great ideas, Milo – I’m implementing a version of most of these, so I’m glad you put your suggestions out in cyberspace for us all to enjoy! I’ve been actively (in a pleasant way) un-Christmas-y this year because I was curious to see what it would be like if I hadn’t ventured into the commercial space at all… I’m happy to report on Christmas Eve, it’s quaintly surreal. Merry Christmas and enjoy whichever DVD box set the two of you pick out. 🙂


A quaintly surreal Christmas sounds ideal Sara! Hope you have a very merry one too 🙂 I think we’re going to start with some 30 Rock, although I did also ask “Santa” for Mad Men Season 5 😉


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