We’re coming up to Christmas – one of the busiest times of the year for every household. On top of our normal workload there are work parties and celebrations. On top of our normal school lives there are nativity plays and fairs to attend. And as well as normal home life, we have to decorate the house, plan gifts for every family member, buy more food for 2 days than we need in a month, schedule visits to various parts of the country and . . .

You know how it is. We all do. Christmas is a time of family and good cheer – but all that memory making can come at a price – and it’s our stress levels that suffer.

Here’s some tips to take the stress out of planning for Christmas, and be a little bit kinder to yourself.

Aim for great, not perfect.

Films have a lot to answer for when it comes to Christmas. Family movies show beautifully decorated Christmas trees and sparkling, tastefully placed decorations in a family room that oozes warmth. Gifts pile up under trees, wrapped in glittering, matching paper. Families hugging, holding mulled wine and singing carols together stand by a roaring fire. What a lovely scene.

The point is that it is a scene. A team of interior designers created that set and decorated that tree. Every gift is an empty box, carefully wrapped by lots of expert hands. Let’s get real.

If your home is anything like mine, decorations that are put up for 2 or 3 weeks of the year are intermingled with the normal daily ornaments, toys and clutter of family life. We don’t empty the room of other items first. Of course our room doesn’t look like a set off a movie.

The chances of getting my family to all stand in one place, wearing a Christmas jumper and singing carols are slim, at least without a hefty amount of bribery. Because they are real kids, not actors, and generally they only know the rude version of every carol anyway.

Ask the kids what they think makes a great Christmas, and I bet the memories they make don’t include perfectly placed baubles, so take that pressure off yourself. Forget the perfect Christmas – make it a great one that suits your family.

Spread the workload

Spreading the workload doesn’t mean starting earlier. If you follow that logic you should have finished the gift shopping by now, have the special stuffing in the freezer and be planning the Easter egg hunt for April already. (Maybe you have, and if that works for you, well done).

What I mean is, share some of those jobs around. Give the teenagers the task of decorating the tree – and resist the urge to rearrange it when they finish. Write a list of gifts and give them to your partner to buy – or hand over the task of wrapping. It doesn’t matter if every corner is not crisp, that’s an extra hour or two that you get back.

Sharing the Christmas preparations will take some of the stress away for you – and you may find the family actually enjoy being a part of making the magic happen.

Choose a gift that lasts longer than it takes to unwrap it

One of the hardest parts of gift giving is working out what to buy for adults who really don’t need anything. My own family have a ‘no ornament or picture frames’ rule – someone has to dust those things for the rest of the year. Another family I know ask for edible treats only for the older relatives.

If you spend more time worrying about finding the perfect pressie than enjoying the actual giving, then maybe it’s time to rethink. This year we are buying the family gift experiences – a treat that they can book for the new year.

There are plenty of benefits from buying a gift voucher for a treat. The excitement of Christmas isn’t over in minutes – the anticipation of going for a day out means it will last much longer. Your family member may get to try something they have never done before – and discover ongoing benefits.

I offer gift vouchers for treatments. In January I get a flurry of recipients booking in for a reiki massage or a reflexology session, and the comments are very similar. “I’ve always wanted to try this but never got around to it.” “I would never have booked it myself, but it’s so relaxing.” “I always wondered how it felt, I can’t wait to try it again.”

Another option is to book family members into a detox workshop in January, or my self-care workshop in March. Not only do they get a new experience, they will learn something that last forever – and it’s something you can do together. Your time and attention may be the best gift of all.

Make some time for yourself

Talking of time, make sure you get some time out for yourself. Don’t stress so much about the perfect Christmas you end up too frazzled and worn out to enjoy it. This time of year can be very taxing to our mental well-being, so book in a relaxing treatment and give yourself the gift of a stress free hour.