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15 December 2011

Survival Guide to Christmas

By Jingle, It's Christmas!
Are you chirpily looking forward to the Christmas festivities or has a less than bountiful year and shaky economy left you dreading the demands on your wallet? I think we are well within our rights to be less than excited about the impending arrival of Christmas this year. The marketing campaigns for the must-have Doggie Doo or Fijit Friend toy, designer labels for him, her and the dog, and the better-than-ever-before festive food ranges are as aggressive as ever. But hang on a minute, aren't we a whisker away from falling into recession again? How in heaven’s name are we supposed to afford all of this, well, stuff?

Never-mind the additional stress caused by precious family members, the winter viruses endlessly floating about, and the fact that we have to plan THE biggest event of the year in cold weather with seriously depleting levels of Vitamin D. Never fear, Gertie is here to help you jig your way through Yuletide. Your 10 step guide to surviving Christmas...

  1. In terms of Christmas shopping, be realistic about your financial situation. If your name's not Paris Hilton or Victoria Beckham, don’t feel the need to foray into those shops you can only enter by the security guard unlocking the door for you. Sit down, plan your budget carefully and do not overspend! No new year starts well with a large credit card bill (or a larger one than you have already).  

    All that counts here is the thought. If you have a Martha Stewart bent you can make some really fantastic gifts at home. Homemade biscuits and sweets make lovely endowments as do handmade cards - you can even make Christmas decorations for your home. I'm not talking bad Blue Peter objects made from toilet rolls and sticky-back plastic... Get inspiration from Christmases past when decorations were all made from natural materials such as holly, twigs, oranges, berries, cranberries, cinnamon sticks etc... 

  2. Accept that the only family as perfect as the Walton's is erm, the Walton's. Difficult family members, rivalries and clashes of personality are only going to be exacerbated when contained in one environment and fed copious amounts of alcohol. Streamline your guest list as much as possible, making tough decisions if necessary. You do care, just more about about your stress levels than somebody else’s feelings. 

  3. Keep up with your training regime. If you can't find time to get to the gym, walk as much as you can while carrying out daily chores. This not only reduces stress and raises natural levels of seratonin, it also helps fend off cold bugs and in addition will help you battle the inevitability of Christmas overeating. Make the most of the family holidays with walks or cycling trips. The goal is to enjoy a guilt-free Christmas pudding, not to end up waddling about like one. 

  4. Traditionally 'tis the season to be stressed! Don't let festive foolery take its toll on your cortisol levels (a.k.a. stress hormones). These nasty buggers don't just pack on the pounds, they also increase appetite, drop metabolism, increase cravings, lower libido and, just in case you need another reason to pay attention, disrupt your sleeping patterns.

    Maintaining a positive mental attitude for the whole of the Christmas holiday is quite frankly unrealistic. So make sure you take your vitamins, maintain a steady blood sugar level (hey, you get to eat every 3 hours!), stay hydrated (by that I mean drink water, not alcohol), keep some time aside for yourself (leave the room, or barring that spray the room and everyone in it with lavender oil - a natural relaxant). 

  5. Fight being SAD, that depression known as seasonal affective disorder. Scientists claim this is due to the reduction of daylight hours during the wintertime. So if you happen to wander past of display of 20-plus lightbulbs you should stand directly in front of them for a minimum of forty-five minutes as this replicates the medically-recommended lightbox emanating 10,000 units of light. Otherwise pop a Vitamin D pill every morning, oh, and exercise and eat healthy (the standard cure for everything!). 

  6. Tis the season to be merry so everyone and his wife decide to pack in a year’s worth of partying within a two week span. But what’s a cost-conscious girl to wear? My top tip is to create your own vintage style. Why buy 60s and 70s-style fashions from the high-street when you have loads of choice available for a fraction of the price from either thrift shops or EBay? The clothes are often much better quality so they don’t fall apart or shrink after putting them in the washing machine the first time. Check out EBay sellers like “aurorevintageclothing” and “chickadooli” for some kooky styles. 

  7. Plan your own Christmas Party. Living on a budget could leave you feeling a bit shy about joining in celebrations that revolve around over-priced menus or expensive cocktail bars. Avoid the Scrooge label, you can still be merry, just in the cheaper confines of your home. BYOB (“bring your own bottle”, or “box of wine” as I prefer) and pot-luck reign supreme. Tune your iPhone into a Christmas radio channel, deck the halls (see #1), mull some wine and Rudolph’s your Reindeer! 

  8. Be a domestic goddess. Goddess status does not cost money, its all a matter of being prepared. Cook low-cost meals in large quantities (chillies, turkey curries, cottage pies) so last-minute guests are always provided for. Have loads of snacks on hand (houmous with crudités, grilled pita bread and salsa and pretzels are all healthy low-fat options). Nigella herself even suggests freezing slices of bacon and slices of bread in pairs so you’re never more than three minutes from a bacon sandwich. Gosh. 

  9. Play music. If people or the state of affairs in general are really getting you down the best thing to do is crank up those carols and start singing REALLY LOUD. You give an outward appearance of really enjoying yourself with the additional benefit of drowning everybody else out.

  10. Drink. And by drinking, I mean alcohol. Preferably something with a Christmas theme such as eggnog, mulled wine or Cava and orange juice. Sometimes it’s the only guaranteed way to get you through.

Consider this my gift to you (now that didn’t cost much did it).


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