I can remember with perfect clarity the moment I became truly grateful for all the years of hard work that my parents had put in to ensuring my brother and I enjoyed our Christmas holidays. I was in the cheese aisle of Tesco – the British supermarket chain – using my height to my advantage to reach over two or three other women who were just as eager as me to grab the last remaining wedge of blue cheese. Because without that cheese, my festive menu wouldn’t be complete, and I’d have to go shopping. Again. Fortunately, my determination won out, helped somewhat by my height advantage, but I was left standing in the aisle wondering what had become of me.
I was 25 at the time, still living in the UK and preparing to host my family and friends on Christmas Day for the first time. The menu was a mix of family favourites and dishes Nigella Lawson had promised would result in a stress-free day. But with just two days to go, I had never felt more frantic. The sheer quantity of food, presents, wine and decorations I’d already bought was threatening the mortgage payments on my newly-purchased home, and all that lay ahead was two days of endless cooking.
But I wasn’t alone. There’s a huge amount of evidence that indicates a large number of people suffer from frazzled nerves as the year nears its end, work pressures mount and financial woes come to the fore. “In my counselling clinic, I see a range of concerns and worries affect my clients during the festive season every year,” says Dr Mary Grogan, MiNDFOOD’s psychologist. “As everything ramps up both at work and at home in the lead up to Christmas, it can be a struggle trying to manage all the timely tasks that need to be done,” she explains. Indeed, Family Relationships Services Australia notes an increased incidence of relationship breakdowns and family violence during the Christmas period.
So as the festive season looms once more, we find out how those around us manage to stay cool, calm and collected. Here, the Smart Thinkers that make up the MiNDFOOD team share their tried-and-tested strategies for enjoying a stress-free season.
AVOID THE SHOPS
For our Managing Editor and Deputy Chief Sub, the best advice is to avoid the Christmas rush by heading online for some peaceful present purchasing or taking advantage of 24-hour trading.
Being a full-time working mum, online shopping is my saviour at Christmas. I love that I can go shopping in my PJs at 11pm on a Monday night, order exactly what I want, and have it delivered to my door. My favourite gift sites are etsy.com (for unique, handmade gifts), amazon.com (for toys) and bookdepository.com (for books). I also tend to stick to what I know and opt for presents that are always popular with adult friends and family such as spa and restaurant vouchers.
Deputy Chief Sub-Editor
I’m useless at getting my Christmas shopping done early – so bad, in fact, that’s it’s not unusual to find me running around on the 24th, desperately seeking the ‘perfect’ gifts for my whole family. Unfortunately, because I’m not the only disorganised person out there (you all know who you are), it also means spending hours looking for a parking spot, joining mosh pit-like throngs of desperate shoppers inside, and queuing for hours at the registers. That was, at least, until I discovered the secret to last-minute Christmas shopping: do it at 2am in the morning (thank goodness for extended Christmas trading hours)! Easy parking, no queues, and no more “bah, humbug!” attitude (well, for me anyway – the poor, exhausted retail staff may disagree). Note: Pre-shopping afternoon nap advisable.
KEEP THE KIDS HAPPY
Christmas is all about family, but mainly about the kids for MiNDFOOD’s New Zealand Sales Manager, Howard John.
If you have young children, then it pays to never forget to buy batteries at Christmas time. If your kids open exciting new toys but there are no batteries included to magically make them work, then you can avoid an impending melt-down by having a ready supply of batteries to hand. As our children are still young, we also encourage their imaginations around Christmas time by putting flour on the carpet to create Santa’s footprints, and by placing sugar and brandy out for the reindeer and Santa on Christmas Eve.
GET IN THE SPIRIT
For our Australian-based National Advertising Manager, Christina Tremain, putting up the decorations is all the more fun accompanied by a little homemade eggnog.
National Advertising Manager
One of the greatest things about Christmas for our family (aside from Christmas Day itself) is spending quality time with the family putting up our Christmas decorations, lights and the Christmas tree. It never ceases to amaze me how much even the mention of this day coming around thrills my 10-year-old daughter. A little twist I have added over the past few years adds to the Christmas spirit: I make this very indulgent eggnog (definitely for adult consumption only!) and play Christmas songs loudly in the background. Click here to see Christina’s recipe.
FASHION AND BEAUTY
As a Fashion & Beauty Editor, Milly Nolan has a few tricks up her sleeve to ensure preparing for Christmas parties goes as smoothly as possible.
Fashion & Beauty Editor, New Zealand
During December, it’s always a juggle to meet my deadlines along with attending the numerous Christmas parties, so in terms of looking my best while on the run, I find it pays to be organised. To do so, I make Sunday my ‘grooming day’, where I exfoliate my entire body, followed by an all-over fake tan application and a manicure and pedicure, so I’m ready top-to-toe to throw on a cocktail dress. After an event, I always take my make-up off without fail and apply rosehip oil, which hydrates and repairs the skin while you sleep. The next day, I reduce any telltale signs of the night before with eye cream (which I keep in the fridge for extra ‘de-puffing’ power), a brightening vitamin C serum and a rich moisturiser. Radiance-enhancing primers and concealer are also my best friends at this time, as is a hot pink lippie to brighten up any look.
As for me, it’s been four years since I hosted that first family Christmas, and although I can still remember the anxiety of placing our carefully selected turkey into the oven, I can also remember the warmth and comfort of sitting around the dinner table with my loved ones, sharing our meal. Because that’s what Christmas is all about. I’m not sure we’re able to ever eliminate all the anxiety that surrounds the festivities of Christmas, but if I have one piece of advice it’s to keep in mind that rather than expensive presents, perfectly cooked pavlovas and dust-free decorations, Christmas is simply about getting together with the ones you love.
What about you, reader? What’s your tried-and-tested method for sailing through the season?