It's less than a few weeks away, but as everyone knows, time speeds up as the end of the year approaches, and before you know it, Christmas panic will set in.
There you are, rushing around for last-minute gifts, fishing Christmas decorations out of boxes, wrapping mounds of presents and preparing your stomach for the onslaught of Aunt Agatha's unavoidable trifle.
There are many things you can do now to prevent panic stations on the 24th of December.
Sort out medical stuff now. Do the dentist, the GP, blood tests, or whatever other tests/treatments you need to do now. The week before Christmas is not the time for this. Get your prescriptions sorted out before the doctor goes away on holiday.
Be a serial shopper. Now you can still find bargains in shops and craft markets. Come the middle of December, those will be gone and you will find yourself spending a fortune on buying presents for everyone. If you see something nice now, buy two or three – you will gradually build up stash of presents. Few things will make you stress out more than a maxed out credit card in January.
Organise help. If you are having the extended family over, organise your support structure now. Cousins, relatives, domestic help – who can do what when? Make a plan now, otherwise you will so exhausted when the day comes you won't enjoy it at all. Who wants to take a tranquilliser just to get through Christmas Day?
Finalise details. Where are you going to have Christmas lunch? Who will be there and what's going to be on the menu? Decide these things now, unless you feel like nasty surprises the day before Christmas. Once you have decided on a menu, parcel out cooking duties. One person can be responsible for salads, one for the main course, one for dessert, etc. Don't stress yourself out doing everything on your own. And remember, it's all very well to go a bit over-the-top with the Christmas lunch, but don't let the festivieties carry on for a month. You may lose your waistline.
Dilute the drama. If there are family tensions, dilute the possibility of a blowout by inviting friends to join you on this day. Family are much less likely to bicker about grandfather's will or Mark's pregnant girlfriend if there are others present besides the family. The festive season has a way of bringing out family feuds into the open.
Buy now, rest later. Things such as red candles and serviettes and specific types of foods get sold out in the week before Christmas. Sort out the things you can do now – you will be so grateful later.
Find out any dietary preferences Do get your facts straight on who eats what. Are there any vegetarians around the table? Any diabetics? Anyone with allergies? This isn't something you want to find out as you emerge from the kitchen triumphantly with the turkey.
Book now to avoid disappointment. If you are going out for lunch, do something about it now. If you are renting tables, cutlery, crockery or hiring caterers, don't leave it until December. Now is the time for action.
Limit spending on presents. Times are tough, and all indications are that this is not going to a bumper Christmas. Decide on an upper limit of how much people will be spending on presents, say R50. This avoids the situation where you give someone an expensive crystal vase and they give you a bar of soap.
Limit the stress. Surround yourself as far as is possible with people you find supportive and kind. Be circumspect in your planning - on Christmas Day you might have to endure several people you would rather not see, but don't plan to go away with them for two weeks beforehand. Be kind to yourself.
Make appointments now. Two days before Christmas, when you need him/her most, your aromatherapist/physiotherapist/massage therapist is going to be booked solid. Make an appointment now - you'll be so glad you did.
- (Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated November 2011)