Christmas is a magical time of year when happy memories are often made, but the festive season can also be a source of great anxiety caused by the extra workload, financial pressure and anticipation of potential family disputes.

The responsibility of hosting Christmas can be overwhelming, as we are expected to produce the perfect meal, beautiful table decorations, gleaming cutlery and sparkling glassware. A way of lifting some of the pressure would be for each family member to contribute so everyone can enjoy the day. Perhaps one could prepare the starter, another cook the main, and another prepare dessert. Don't worry if anything goes a little wrong, as it should be fun just being together round the table enjoying each other's company. And do remember, everything is enjoyable in moderation. Too much alcohol could ruin the day, not only for you but for those in your company, and try not to over indulge in the seasonal fayre, to avoid any unnecessary ailments. After the festive lunch, instead of settling down to watch television, perhaps you could enjoy an invigorating walk with the family.

The purchasing of presents at Christmastime can be extremely stressful. Organisation is the key to avoiding any last minute panics. Shopping online can make life so much easier, by avoiding huge crowds and having to deal with heavy loads of shopping. Work out what you really need, and stick to a budget. If you are concerned about the expense, consider writing some gift vouchers, which cost nothing. Adults could be given personal vouchers for your offer of babysitting, house cleaning, ironing or gardening. Edible treats wrapped festively would be well received. Or, if you can knit, perhaps a cosy woollen hat and scarf. For the children, how about making some mini family albums, as children love looking at family photographs. Everyone would be sure to love these thoughtful personal gifts.

If you feel torn between invites during the festive period, try to choose the fairest option and perhaps suggest one member hosts Christmas this year, and the following year another takes their turn. If there are any unresolved issues amongst the family, agree to not discuss these until the New Year, and focus on the children as top priority, particularly in the case of those from broken relationships. Christmas can remind us of those we have lost, so try to celebrate their memory by raising a glass to them, or if your grief is too painful, allow yourself some time out for recollection.

If you know of anybody who is likely to be on their own at this time, give them a friendly phone call, and if you're able to extend a festive invitation to them, even better. If you are facing Christmas alone, perhaps consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or animal shelter which would help make a difference to someone's life and provide you with company.
Focusing on the traditional side of Christmas, having realistic expectations, enjoying the festive treats and relaxing together will bring a sense of closeness at this special time of year. Just being with our nearest and dearest is all most of us need to create the perfect Christmas.

Thankfully the majority of us will enjoy what Christmas brings, but for many the time of year makes no difference to their suffering. Whatever the problem is, or however difficult things may seem, no one has to manage alone. There is always someone to offer help and support at the end of the telephone.

Here are some useful free phone numbers to have in case of an emergency situation. Please note these services are available 24 hours every day, including Christmas Day:

Alcoholics Anonymous: 0800 9177 650 www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

ChildLine: 0800 1111 www.childline.org.uk

Domestic Violence: 0808 2000 247 www.refuge.org.uk

Samaritans: 116 123 www.samaritans.org

Silver Line: 0800 470 80 90 www.thesilverline.org.uk