How to get through this challenging Christmas without an argument

By Geoff Harris

This festive season is going to feel very different, with current restrictions dictating that between 23 and 27 December, only three households in a "Christmas bubble" can mix indoors and stay overnight (there is a maximum of eight people in Scotland).

This should take care of meeting up with your immediate family, wherever they live, but it might add extra pressure and raise the chance of family arguments after a difficult and challenging 2020. It doesn't need to be this way, however, with a bit of mindfulness, forethought and planning...

1) Try and identify the flashpoints

If you are prone to losing your temper at Christmas, think about what sparked past flare-ups. Common seasonal disputes tend to centre around food, gifts, differing plans for the big day, money and just plain boredom. What can you do to sidestep some of these flashpoints this year? Maybe you were stressed out and irritable on Christmas

Eve as you had left your shopping or the cooking arrangements too late, and ran out of time. So work out how best to use the remaining online shopping time more effectively this year, making the most of fast delivery dates.

2) Have realistic expectations

There is a lot of hype and build-up around Christmas, which can also trigger resentments and rows. People feel inadequate if everything isn't just so, which is when recriminations and blame can kick in. So just step away from the turkey for a while. You don't need to be a domestic god or goddess. Nobody is expecting you to host the perfect Christmas, and this is something created by ad agencies anyway. Just do your best. If killing yourself to make everything perfect just puts you in a foul mood, then it's utterly self defeating.

If you're looking for some inspiration to get you in the festive spirit this year, why not get advice from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his team of chefs at River Cottage HQ? They've pulled together to bring you a festive feast, covering everything from delicious Christmas veg, festive meat & poultry, sweet treats and handmade, edible gifts! The perfect gift for someone who has everything this Christmas. Find out more

3) Watch the booze

Alcohol is a good friend but a dangerous enemy. Too much can loosen tongues and inhibitions, causing you to say stuff that's best left unsaid if you are tired and irritable. A heavy night can also lead to the mother of all hangovers, which again, creates the perfect conditions for a major row with your partner over something quite trivial.

4) Get plenty of exercise

You may be saving the gym membership and push-up regime until the new year, but actually, Christmas is the perfect time to be exercising, particularly out in the fresh air. Lots of rich food and enforced idleness can you make feel stuffy and bloated, and there comes a point where you really don't want another beer. A walk, run or bike ride out in the cold will blow away the cobwebs and get the feel-good chemicals surging round your system, so you're in a much better mood when you return to your overheated house full of relatives.

5) Let teenagers be teenagers

Seriously. Your 16 year old isn't going to suddenly change because it's Christmas. In fact, the school holidays and downtime will probably amplify their annoying behaviour traits, as they don't have a daily slog in the classroom to work off some of that energy. You're around them much more too, so again, recognise this as a huge potential flashpoint. Try not to take their antisocial behaviour personally – you're the adult here, not them – and again, go out for a walk or plug into some music if they are really getting your goat.

6) Try to avoid getting bored

People also tend to fall out and pick fights when they are bored, with the 'dead' period between Boxing day and New Year's a particularly risky time. So rather than just sitting around the house watching mind-numbing TV or bingeing on box sets for the sake of it, spend a few hours of the day doing something useful. Work on a hobby, turn a spare room into a study, buy some used gym equipment off Gumtree, whatever. The devil makes work – and rows – for idle hands.

7) Don't overspend

There is no reason you can't enjoy Christmas on a budget. Some of the best things about the holiday – the time off work, the beautifully decorated shop windows, the chance to watch some great old movies or read some books – are either very cheap or free, as is all that time you get to spend with your family. As we age, we tend to value experiences more than possessions, so don't put yourself in financial difficulties over some big, showy purchases that everybody will be bored of by Easter.

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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