I read Past Bedtime



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Say Goodbye to Guilt this Christmas

Whether it's the amount of food we're consuming, the money we're spending on gifts, or not managing to find enough time to spend with loved ones, Christmas can leave us feeling drained and guilty rather than full of festive cheer.

Sure, it's a time for giving, but it's also one of the few holidays that pretty much everyone has every year, so by gum you deserve to enjoy it! Here's how to kiss those festive niggles goodbye and get on with enjoying the most wonderful time of the year.

The guilt trip: "There's no way I can afford to be generous this Christmas"

Why it happens:

Gone are those halcyon days when your Mum would buy presents for everyone in your gang at school and added your name to all the family cards and gifts. Now that you're earning, you're suddenly expected to fork out for presents for family, friends and colleagues all out of your own pocket, despite having less disposable income than when you were twelve.

Deal with it by:

Two words: Secret Santa. This has been a godsend for me at work and with friends. Setting a budget not only prevents the awkward 'I gave you a Michael Kors bag and all I got was this novelty cactus candle' chat, but means everyone can save those pennies that are so precious by December. If you were going to do a big Christmas thing with mates anyway, why not suggest holding off on the gifts so you can all afford to splurge a bit more on the prosecco? You'll be surprised how many of your mates and coworkers will have been having the exact same worry.

If you want to spoil your loved ones but know that money is going to be tight, try and buy gifts for them as you see them throughout the year. It will spread the cost more evenly and save you from overspending on any old thing in a last-minute panic on Christmas Eve.

The guilt trip: "I've undone a year's worth of dieting in two meals"

Why it happens:

Let's face it, you can't not indulge on a mince pie or two in the run up to the holidays. Still, with parties every weekend and the staff kitchen overflowing with people's unwanted chocolate, it's tempting to throw in the towel completely and find it under a stack of Christmas leftovers come New Year.

Deal with it by:

No self-respecting socialite is going to turn down a party invite to conserve their waistline, so overindulgence is inevitable. The trick here is to accept that you're not going to be losing weight/making muscle gains, and focus instead on damage limitation.

Look at your calendar and block out any days or evenings when you know you're going to want to indulge. For me, that's the whole period of the 24th - 29th December (wahey), plus one or two evenings each weekend in the run-up. However long it is, block those out and accept that you're going to be off-plan. Tell yourself firmly though that the rest of the time is business as usual.

Knowing that you've allowed yourself time to indulge gives you back the control: it's no longer technically breaking your rules. Trust me, this works when it comes to avoiding the unnecessary guilt and the 'might as well' chaos that usually hits by 3pm on the 23rd.

To prevent that sluggish post-binge bulge, drag your family or friends out on a winter walk. You'll feel loads better for it, and build up an appetite for the next meal.

The guilt trip: "I haven't seen enough of [insert name here]."

Why it happens:

If you're used to four to six week university holidays (cheers, Cambridge), a week is suddenly not nearly enough time to catch up with everyone in your life. You try and split yourself in twenty directions, doing a brunch, lunch and dinner each day, and end up feeling like you haven't had quality time with anyone.

Deal with it by: 

Brutal as it may sound, you need to do some prioritising. Make a list of your closest family, plus anyone who you make time to see regularly throughout the whole year. These are the people you should be seeing in Christmas week - there's nothing to stop your primary school netball reunion being pushed to January, and hey, then you might not even have to do Secret Santa! You'll feel much happier, and less stressed, if you limit your time to a few key events with the key players in your life. Make use of evenings and weekends before and after the holidays to spend time with your other important people.

So there you have it! Your guide to a guilt-free festive period. What are your tips for staying sane over Christmas? Let me know in the comments below. Merry Christmas!