Christmas is a hectic time for all of us. There’s all the present buying to think about, dashing in from the cold – and possibly snow! – into overheated shops, crammed with people. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all you have to do and then ultimately underwhelmed on the big day itself.

Too often, we expect too much of ourselves at this time of year. We expect to give the perfect present, wrapped as beautifully as in a magazine. We hope to put on the best possible spread with every kind of festive food imaginable. We aspire to the sparkly homes we see in magazines, determined to make the most brilliant decorations and have everything just so.

This year, take a step back from the magazines and the adverts telling you what your Christmas should look like, and use our tips and tricks to make your Christmas yours. And keep your head while you’re at it!

  • Prioritise: Christmas is supposed to be about spending time with your loved ones and showing each other you care. So, take a look at your diary and decide which events you really want to go to. Cancel anything that isn’t about spending time with people you love.
  • Say no: As the saying goes “If you want a job done, give it to a busy person”, so when people see you coping with your to-do list, they may try to add to it. If you are willing and happy to, by all means say yes. But if you know you can’t manage it – say no straight away. If you struggle with say “no” outright, try saying “That doesn’t work for me” or “That doesn’t fit in with my plans.”
  • Decide carefully: With so much on it’s easy to give into the temptation to cancel at the last moment, but we all know how frustrating that can be. If you are invited to an event that you don’t really want to go to or will struggle to fit in – say no! If you’re not sure if you can make it – or even if you want to! – say you will think about it and let them know by a certain time. Be sure to let them know, remember that everyone is busy this year, so try to make it as easy as you can for those around you. Hopefully they’ll return the favour!
  • Ask for help: If you are struggling, ask for help. Too many presents to wrap and cards to write? Put Elf on, halve the piles and bet your partner you can finish first. Overwhelmed in the kitchen? Call in your guests, put the Christmas songs on and pour the wine – they will be happy to help.
  • Book in advance: If you need a hair or beauty appointment before the big day, book in advance to avoid disappointment. The same goes for your physio, osteopathic or any other ongoing treatments you have – the week just before Christmas can get very busy with people realising they have limited time to book before the bank holidays, so book as soon as you can.
  • Simplify: You don’t have to buy everything on your child’s letter to Father Christmas. Pick three that you think they will like best and get those. The same goes for everything – you don’t have to produce every festive food imaginable, pick favourites and stick to those. People can live without cheese on sticks!
  • Make time for yourself: Don’t let your personal routines be swallowed up by your to-do list. Delegate if necessary and take that bubble bath to chill you out or hit the road for a run that will be give you a lift and some much needed fresh air.

Remember, this is just one day out of your year, there is no reason it has to be perfect. Someone will fall asleep over Scrabble, someone will have a tantrum and you may get chocolate on the carpet. But at what other time of year can you eat Christmas pudding, watch relentlessly positive films and wear silly hats to dinner?