How To Deal With Difficult People At Christmas

Picture this: It’s Christmas day; you’ve got 12 people staying with you – including your critical, difficult mother-in-law, your drunk, obnoxious uncle and four kids under three – and instead of enjoying the festivities in a calm, serene manner, you’re hiding in the pantry, swigging on a bottle of champagne (French, obvs) to calm your frayed nerves.

Related: Managing Stress In The Lead-Up To Christmas

The festive season can bring great joy, but great stress – it ain’t easy dealing with a multitude of difficult personalities when your extended family unite under one roof for the holidays.

We can choose our friends, not our family, so the saying goes – but your urban tribe will probably be of no good use to you when battling your own private Vietnam on Christmas day, they’ll most likely be too busy trying to win their own battles! And, on a serious note, the festive holiday season proves so stressful, sad and lonely for some people each year that for Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis support telephone line, 13 11 14, the days leading up to Christmas and New Year are its busiest time of the year.

So, how do we keep Christmas stress on the down low? Here are some fast tips from relationship experts and Lifeline alike:

  • Try not to expect too much – aiming for the “perfect” Christmas or New Year’s Eve and assuming that everyone will be on their best behaviour is unrealistic.
  • Keep tidy – there’s a temptation to drink too much at Christmas, but alcohol can fuel arguments and cause conflict.
  • Avoid the expectation of disapproval, because this leads to misunderstandings – everything your family says then sounds like a criticism which may not have been intended.
  • In-laws should avoid giving unsolicited advice and criticism.
  • If you are the recipient of unsolicited advice and feel criticised, don’t be over-sensitive. State calmly that, yes you can see their point but you and your partner prefer to do things differently.
    in-laws, Christmas, conflict
  • Try your best to treat in-laws (this goes both ways of course) as you would your friends: be tactful, thoughtful and kind.
  • Set firm boundaries with your in-laws in a calm way about things you feel strongly about, for example: children’s bedtimes and eating sweets, so that in-laws don’t inadvertently break the rules.
  • Look for mutual topics of interest that are not contentious, avoid topics that are likely to lead to conflict. Remember, most grandparents love and are very interested in their grandchildren and want what is best for them. This is a good place to enhance the relationship – stick to talk of them.
  • If you have a house full of relatives, keep calm by reminding yourself that they are most likely very pleased to be there and grateful for the time they can spend with their grandchildren. Try to focus on the positives and not expect disapproval or criticism.
    in-laws, Christmas, conflict
  • Know your limits and listen to your emotions. If you need to calm down, take a walk or find a quiet place (pantries can come in handy).
  • If times are tough financially, don’t be a hero and try to shoulder all the costs alone. Make a plan as a family for a Christmas that is reasonable, or ask people to chip in and/or bring a plate.

If you are feeling in crisis, tell a trusted friend or family member, or talk to your GP/counsellor, or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit

Main image via; cartoon via and final image via

November 27, 2014

7 Tips for Stress-Free Entertaining This Christmas

Whatever you’re planning in the kitchen this Christmas – whether it’s a casual lunch or an all-out family feast – HelloFresh Australia Founder and CEO, Tom Rutledge dishes out his top tips for foolproof and stress-free entertaining this silly season.

1. Plan ahead
Before you do anything, spend a little time coming up with a menu and a plan of attack.  Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself, make a note of what can be pre-prepared, delegated or outsourced.

2. Question tradition
Don’t be afraid to mix things up a little, perhaps you could trade in the turkey for seafood or swap the traditional pudding for panettone. Whatever you decide, it’s always a nice idea to put your own twist when crafting a Christmas feast to keep things interesting.

3. Place your orders early
While it is always nice to waft about the local shops a couple of days before you’re due to entertain, to see what inspiration comes your way – chances are you simply won’t get what you need!  If you’re after a turkey or a particular type of ham, order one from your local butcher early. The same rules apply when ordering large quantities of seafood or even baked goods. Simply ring ahead a week or two earlier to make sure you don’t miss out!

4. Hamming it up
It may sound strange, but when you’re buying a ham, be sure to request the left leg. The muscle tonality, predominant right-footedness, and the scratching habits of pigs’ right leg means that the idle left leg has a better fat distribution and flavour than the active right one. You heard it here first!

5. Divide and conquer
If you’ve got a hoard of relatives coming over for a meal, take them up on their offer to bring something along.   Rather than leaving the choice up to them, politely offer something they could bring from your pre-planned menu.  A well planned menu will be easy to divvy up and will leave more time for enjoying some well earned catch up time with your guests.

6. Assemble, don’t cook!
There’s no point being tethered to the stove while your guests are emptying stockings and glasses of Pimms with equal vigour. Do as much of your preparation the day before as possible.  There is so much that can be done prior, from the glazing of the ham to marinading of the prawns, leaving you with more time on the day to celebrate.

7. Outsource
If it all seems like more hassle than it’s worth, outsource!  You can buy things in all stages of preparedness or even in kits that take much of the legwork out of the planning and shopping. Naturally, in a shamelessly gratuitous plug, I can recommend you to for our gorgeous gourmet Christmas Box! 


December 20, 2013

Q&A with Celebrity Chef Ben O’Donoghue

The festive season is a time for celebrating, entertaining, cooking and of course, the dreaded cleaning-up. As a busy family man, celebrity chef and Fairy ambassador Ben O’Donoghue shares what’s on his Christmas menu this year, and his handy tips and tricks to help get you through this fun but busy time of year.

What are you cooking for Christmas this year?
A Bangalow pork ham from my butcher and loads of prawns and oysters – simple and fresh!

What are your best tips and tricks for stress-free entertaining over the holiday season?
For the food, develop a menu plan. Get everything you need ahead of time and also keep it simple.

For the enviable mess aftermath, make sure you have some Fairy Platinum in the cupboard, which cuts through grease in one wash.

What are your favourite summer ingredients?
Tomatoes, chillies, coriander and fish.

What are some foodie gift ideas that you’ll be gifting this Christmas?
Cookbooks and some quality produce, like good olive oil. Also, my new BBQ cookbook is out, Ben’s BBQ Bible, so all my relatives and friends will be receiving one this Christmas!

What’s coming up for you next year?
Hopefully we will get a TV show off the ground. My new restaurant, Billy Kart Kitchen in Brisbane has been keeping me busy but I will also look to start writing a new book.

What’s on your Christmas menu this year? Tell us in the comments!

December 4, 2013