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What to Do if Christmas is the Holiday From Hell

Everyone's wishing you a Merry Christmas, but is Christmas the holiday you wish you could avoid? Do you always fight with your relatives and have to cope with whining, disappointed kids? You need help from a psychiatrist like Graham Lucas, who specializes in the study of holiday stress. He says, "Christmas magnifies interpersonal tension. A laid-back person can exasperate an anxiety-prone person because they leave everything till the last minute. Some people do their Christmas shopping in May. They're the same people who'll arrive three hours before the airport opens if they're going on holiday."

Presents create stress because they are reveal how you feel about others. One solution is to agree on a financial limit on presents?that way you won't reveal any people preferences.

But it's the family personality clashes that can make this a hellish holiday. "At Christmas, you're bringing together the extended family, people you have nothing in common with except a few blood corpuscles and DNA," says Lucas.

For the perfect holiday party, it's not so important to have great food and drink. What's important is to stay on top of things. "If you're not in control, it creates anxiety," Lucas says. An ideal host will "?go round saying 'what if'.' What if uncle Ronald gets drunk in front of my mother?" That way you can solve problems early, before they escalate and family members vow never to speak to each other again.

And remember that kids are more likely to be bratty when they're away from home, since children?especially teenagers?do best in their own environment. "If you take a teenager with a boyfriend or girlfriend away with you, they're going to resent it," says Lucas.

And if nothing else works, there's the final solution. No, it's not getting rid of your family?it's turning on the TV.

Christmas will be over soon, then you can catch up on your sleep. Sweet Dreams!

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