Tuesday, 22 December 2009

7 ways to keep your sanity in the festive season

Christmas is getting very close now. Have you finished your Christmas shopping? Have you started? Are you looking forward to the day? Even if you are organised and optimistic, the rush to create the perfect Christmas can get to us all. Here's my list of how to keep your sanity in the festive season.

1. Be a child.

This probably comes to some of us easier than to others but in our attempts to organise everything to the 'enth degree, we can forget to actually enjoy the whole thing. So take some time to remember what you liked about Christmas as a child, be it overdressing the Christmas tree with baubles that don't necessarily co-ordinate, watching the Wizard of Oz (even though you can basically perform it word for word), or diving into a pile of presents and ripping off the wrapping paper with no thoughts of tidying up.

2. Be grateful

Christmas is probably the most materialistic of celebrations and a time of year when we add to our belongings en masse. We can come to concentrate so much on what we'll get and what we'll give, that we forget to look at what we already have in our lives. Take a moment to think of what you already have that you're grateful for.

3. Don't do a Delia

In a culture which forcefeeds us celebrity chefs, eating plans and cookery slots on This Morning, it sometimes seems that to be a success we have to have all the dressings and culinary implements and herby oils available on the market. Mashed potato is boring, roasties are so last year. Turkey just isn't fashionable unless you've shoved your hand under its skin and given it a good grope. Relax. If you like your turkey plain, that's fine. If roasties and peas are your thing, excellent. You don't have to be a domestic goddess a'la Nigella. Cook what you want to eat.

4. Time out

Not just for screaming five year olds, time out can be invaluable for us grown-ups too. Scream into a cushion. Kick a ball around (the kids will enjoy that). Slap a snowman. Whatever it takes (legally) to release some frustration, go for it. Everyone needs time out now and then.

5. Worse case scenario

Perspective is a wonderful thing but often it escapes us in the run up to Christmas. If your fears are getting the better of you, then take a moment to sit down and work out the worse case scenario. What is the very very worst that could happen? So that present that you ordered online doesn't arrive in time for Christmas. It will be just as welcome a few days later. What if your cooking rota, that you've planned with military precision, falls apart on the day? Nobody will starve from waiting an extra half an hour. So Auntie Betty doesn't like her present. Give her an extra sherry and remember next year that blue just isn't her colour.

6. Brainstorm

Is there too much to remember? Have you too much to do? If your mind is spinning with the mass of jobs to carry out, things to buy and people to ring to make it a perfect day, then have a brainstorm. Write down all the jobs, all the purchases, and all the people then tick them off as you complete each one. It might also be handy to write down any emergency numbers you might need like out of hours doctor and chemist, friend and family numbers just in case you mislay your address book, and useful numbers like taxi firms too.

7. Breathe

Not as obvious as it sounds. The power of breath is overlooked for the most part but if all else fails, take a deep breath in, count to ten, breathe out and smile.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Oh the weather outside is frightful

But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Can you tell that I'm feeling festive yet? In the run up to Christmas, I find my writing time is overrun with so many things that demand my attention. For the most part, it's child related - present buying for my children, Christmas decorations for my children to ooh and aah over, Christmas plays starring my children and chocolate filled advent calendar opening by my children. There's also present buying for friends and family, the normal housework which is bulked out slightly by the pre holiday cleaning and clearing, and festive planning.

Still, my writing commitments continue to call. I'm currently writing a murder mystery play for an am dram group I've known for decades. It's set in a zoo and I have the added bonus of being able to write for known actors. I love to write the characters to suit the voices of the cast. On most evenings, you can find me tapping away on the keys as 'Death on the Wild Side' takes shape. I've warned the group involved that they'll require a gorilla suit and a Lara Croft outfit.