Tuesday, 18 December 2012

How To Avoid Family Arguments This Christmas

'Tis the season to bicker all the way to the in-laws, or is it? Here's some popular disputes and how to prevent them...  

"I'm not doing the driving"

When I was growing up, my family all lived down the same street, nowadays hardly any of us live in the same town we grew up in and Christmas get togethers often involve trains, planes and 'accidental' car trouble.

The journey there isn't the problem, it allows time to fill in the gaps to prevent awkward conversations like who's getting divorced and who didn't get the promotion etc, but if only a day trip then comes the return journey and somebody has to drive, which means, someone has to stay sober. As I'm sure we've all experienced it's not much fun being the only one sat there with a glass of fake fizz whilst everyone else is on the dance floor, the twister mat or trying to play charades, on a twister mat, on a dance floor. If not, then maybe it's your turn to drive.

Besides, whilst you're sober and everyone else's smashed, depending on your relationship with the in-laws it's a perfect opportunity to do a bit of present swapping or tipping the family silver into your handbag.

"We're not going to your mum's"

If in a relationship, the general rule is that if we went to his or her folks last year, we go to ours this year. However, what if their folks are divorced and remarried? That means we only get to spend Christmas with our folks every three years. Or what if its our first Christmas together and they want to spend this Christmas with their folks, ours next year, but we spent last years' with our ex partners folks and have promised ours this year? Can you see where I'm going with this? It would make sense to have the whole lot over for Christmas but then there are the sibling in laws, the nieces and nephews, and pending on how far you spiral down the family web it could be more like cooking for Crisis at Christmas than a festive family dinner.

Perhaps say "That's fine dear, so long as we can do mine Boxing day" and lets face it, Boxing day is much more fun - the local pubs are open, better films on the box, and less expectations of dinner if you're cooking - besides, if there's nothing in the diary for the 27th you can really celebrate and wash down a box of chocky liquors with a bottle of Baileys (so long as you got out of doing the driving).

"Put a jumper on and turn the heating off"

Coincidently, energy costs increase during cold weather warnings. The picturesque family image of us all sitting around a glowing fire toasting marshmallows to the festive sound of church bells should be replaced with that of us in woolly hats and gloves under a duvet watching <em>Eastenders</em> Christmas (disaster) special. 

Apparently the "We're not putting the heating on just yet" dispute starts in October, so by Christmas day we should all be used to the reaction we get when we flick the switch and should have a jumper ready.

Leaving the oven door open after you've roasted your turkey will keep the kitchen warm for all of ten minutes, and pressing used chewing gum into window sills (between the window and the sill) helps lock in warmth but only if you've been doing this all year. If you live in flats, befriend those on the top floor as these will be the warmest.


"Where's the remote control?"

Believe it or not, popular 999 calls have been from distraught partners of those hiding or refusing to hand over the remote control. Unfortunately, the post roast selection of Christmas television is what holds me back from my idyllic crisp country walk.. in Homerton. Is it sad that the only time I watch the soaps is on Christmas day? 

There have been many Christmas's where I've been a guest in someone's house and politely sat sweating and trembling for what seems like hours before I had the courage to ask for the tenth time "You did say it was OK to watch Eastenders at eight didn't you?"

I actually paid my dad £3 once to let me watch 'Stenders' in peace one Christmas day. £2 if I could turn over and another £1 for keeping quiet and not tell me everything that was about to happen whilst it was on.

However, in recent years, something amazing has happened. The plus box. These give us the opportunity to record and playback anything on the other side. However, it's just not the same when watching sports, especially when your neighbour and avid Spurs fan whoops and cheers every time a goal is scored. Which brings me to my next dispute..

"We're not watching sport on Christmas day"

An informant has assured me that there are no fixtures on Christmas day, however, sports news channels operate as normal and this can lead to arguments during peak festive soap viewing, such as all day. 

For your footy mad dad, £3 may not be enough to rent out the remote, you may have set the fire alarm off, change channel during evacuation, then hide the controller VERY well, but not well enough to forget where you put it, perhaps in the washing machine (let's face it, who's more likely to use it). Alternatively, get them a very interesting manly present to play with, such as a selection box of toiletries or a Top Gear calendar.


"You should've cooked it like this... "

Why is it that people (who aren't cooking) always wait until you're about to dish up and then start loitering in the kitchen? Is it the aroma of the juicy bird roasted in fresh herbs? Or if you're anything like my Dad you may wish to just stand there and say how you would've done it differently.

To avoid health and safety issues such as scalds and chinese burns, stay out of the kitchen during cooking and serving (if doing so in the kitchen). If you're the chef then threaten whoever keeps coming in with the washing up, that'll keep them out.

If using someone elses cooker for the first time, get acquainted with it first. A couple of years ago I grilled a turkey. It didn't look very happy and neither did my guests.

"Who put the empty butter back in the fridge?"

It's a divorceable offence. Those who put empty milk cartons, jam jars and margarine tubs back in the fridge should hand themselves in and their presents back. I learnt at an early age that this is as good as illegal, however, I've sinced been back to my parents house, tried to raid the fridge for "fun food" such as sandwich fillers, creamy cakes and booze, and my mum's voice appears from nowhere "Don't eat that it's out of date"! Isn't that just as sinful? And who has booze in their fridge for that long it goes out of date? Surely the same people that put crisps in the fridge.

Throwing things away can be fun! You can play games such as bin buckaroo. 

Whatever you do this Christmas, wherever you may be with whomever you choose (or get lumbered with), wrap up, drive safe, and be nice to each other.

To see this piece in full and read more on Christmas antics, go to http://www.n16mag.com/latest-issue.html

Also on HuffPost UK Lifestyle

Alternative Medicines For Mental Health

Many of us are choosing a greener lifestyle, and that goes for medication too. Holistic therapist Sorrell Robbins explains "The idea of alternative medicine - namely herbs - is to help moderate and balance the individual alongside medical and/or psychiatric care and not to cure conditions that mainstream doctors were unable to". 

Holistic therapists are often a plan b to conventional practitioners - like GPs - however the role of the GP is not stripped of authority and is often required to approve certain treatments offered by the holistic therapist.

A holistic therapist should always check what medication you are already taking. Although natural herbs are just that - natural - they still hold potency and should be monitored when used with other medication.

Sorrell takes me through some of the common mental health symptoms she has worked with and what herbs and other alternative medicines she recommends.

Herbs such as valerian and hops help calm the mind. Hops also helps calmly release stored anger. Chamomile as we know also naturally calms the mind, but what we don't know is that we need at least two tea bags for it to have an effect. 

Roman chamomile is good for anxiety in kids, and frankincense with a drop of heart shakia if they are prone to panic attacks. Lavender is also useful is the child is too over-stimulated as it's great for all round relaxation, and that goes for adults too.

Hypnosis - although many people are both excited and nervous about apparent mind control, it is actually a myth. No-one can give you suggestions or commands that your mind won't allow because you are in control at all times. Clinical hypnosis - in oppose to what we see Derren Brown do on TV - is really deep relaxation and meditation. I put Sorrells' hypnotherapy to the test, and was pleasantly surprised at the level of relaxation she took me to through guided visualisation whilst balancing my mind and body. I am one of these un centered people that can usually only wind down whilst I'm asleep.

Many of us have already heard of St Johns wart and it's one of the best selling over the counter and alternative medicines for the blues. It's non toxic and has proven effective results but it should not be taken alongside prescribed antidepressant or antipsychotic drugs as it can have the reverse effect.

Withania herbs help to restore motivation and passion, often lost during depressive episodes. It's good for libido too which is often lost during these episodes. Withania is also a tender energizer.

Rosemary naturally stimulates the circulation system and gives the adrenalin glands a gentle kick. Orange flower is good for children with depression as well as anger problems.

A massage helps boost circulation too, the cupping and hacking (don't be put off by the names given to the techniques) are great for energisers. A good oil to use bergamot as it helps with many types of depressive states, and rose water (rose otto) which has an uplifting effect whilst restoring balance.

Skullcap is known to calm down negative thinking which in turn can ease feelings of paranoia. Also try the valerian, hops and chamomile for their properties.

Orange flower mixed in water, like the hops, can help control feelings of anger and can be used for kids too.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - (OCD)

As well as the Skullcap, wild lettuce for it's mild sedative effect is a good natural medicine for OCD. As episodes of OCD are often triggered by stress and anxiety, also try the valerian, hops and chamomile. Valerian blended with otto rose is suitable for children with OCD.

The hops and valerian, often prepared together, are a common and effective natural sleep aid. They come in both tablet and tea form and it's best to make a pot and drink throughout the evening, not just before you go to bed. As with the tablets, try taking them a good hour or so before you go to bed. Lavender drops on the pillow also help us to relax. Be care with burning oils or incense at night time, the drops are much safer.

Mood Stabiliser
Lemon balm aids in the leveling out of moods, and it's properties are known to promote balance and harmony.

The skullcap can also help with cravings, and is often used in detox blends that eliminate excess drugs from the body. Milk thistle helps cleanse the liver, although it must be used with caution if the liver has been subject to a disorder such as psoriasis. The wild lettuce is sometimes used as an opiate detox because of it's similar sedative effect.

Massage also helps people trying to detox, and lymphatic drainage strokes aid circulation and the elimination of toxins.

Aromatherapy (the use of oils) is also a great alternative remedy. It's soothing, relaxing, great for the skin and muscle tissue and has an immediate effect.  However, it only works on a superficial level. Herbs work on a deeper level on your organs and work much better long term.

To find out more about herbs or the work Sorrel does, click here. http://www.chamomileclinic.co.uk/