You hear that knock on the door or the doorbell chime and your heart races, a clip clopping against your rib cage. You think back to last year and the exhaustion you felt at the end of the day and how close you came to curling under the covers and declaring Christmas cancelled. 

This time of year can be exhausting. Before the big day has arrived, you’ve raced around buying presents, ordering turkeys, attending parties and surviving hangovers. The Christmas season is one of my favourite time of years, but with it comes the inevitable friction of family being in close proximity for what feels like a eon. 

Here are my tips to survive and maintain a semblance of balance in your life without reaching for the sherry hidden at the back of the kitchen cupboard. Some of these may seem like strange survival tips, but it is all about giving you some head space to breath and enjoy the big day. After all, you’ve sweated and baked to make it the wonderful day that it is. 

1. Agree with other family members that you will divide your time between keeping the difficult family members company. You can do it all yourself. You have for as long as you can remember, but it hasn’t made you happy. Has it? It’s now time for a group effort. You just need one other person who you can enlist to share the load. Agree a strategy before hand, but be flexible. We know Christmas always seems to bring more surprises than Santa down the chimney.

2. Give yourself a smokers break. Don’t take up smoking just for the day, but that time away that smokers have is just as important for you. Find an excuse that will allow you to spend five minutes every couple of hours just having some you time. Whether it’s a phone call to be made or to pretend to check on something in the kitchen. 

3. Breathe. If you follow any social media, you’re probably seeing this plastered everywhere. It may have even started to get annoying. Don’t press that unfollow button just yet. Hear me out. When we are stressed or overwhelmed, one of the things we do is shallow breathe. It means you’re not getting enough oxygen into your brain or body and you just don’t think as clearly as usual. This also means things will p*ss you off easier than usual. Instead of trying to remember, just make it a habit that every time you go to the loo, you take three deep breaths. 

4. Change the way you see the day. I know. I know. You’ve done it before. You know how the day will play out. But all that time you’re expending on dreading it, is taking up your energy. So instead. Change the conversation you’re having. Just try it, it’s not going to hurt. Say to yourself. I’m excited. You’ll need to say it three or four times. You don’t need to mean it, or feel it, but you will need to cut through the doubt of it not working and just say it. A statement. I’m excited. You’re giving your subconscious something else to believe. Let it do the work. And if it does nothing else. You’ve stopped dreading the day for a couple of minutes. 

5. When everyone has left. Have a moment of bliss and happiness planned for you. After all, you’ve survived another Christmas. It might be a long hot bath. A walk in the park, or a decadent movie under the duvet. Don’t rush to have everything perfect and preened for tomorrow. Just take an hour or two. Warn the rest of the family before hand and have it planned in the day as if it is another Christmas tradition. And if all you can do is find a cheeky 15 minutes, then plan for those beautiful 15 minutes doing something you love.

And when all else fails reach for a pillow to muffle your screams and the vodka from the freezer. No-one will know that you’re not drinking water. Joking (sort of).