10 Tips to De-Stress Your Holidays

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1) Loneliness? Plan a Date with YOU!

Many people don’t have family to spend the holidays with. If this is the case, then use this opportunity to treat yourself to something you normally wouldn’t do. Keep yourself busy by looking in advance to attend events. Aid the less fortunate and volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. You can even find an organization to go caroling with. For the religious folks, seek solace at a place of worship. It’s a rewarding feeling when you can do something for yourself while also helping others.

2) Social Anxiety? Plan Ahead

Many holiday events allow you to bring plus one. So, don’t hesitate to bring a familiar face to ease the anxiety of meeting and socializing with new people. Think of conversation pieces beforehand, and ask open-ended questions, such as: “How do you know the host?” “Have you done all your shopping yet?” “Where are you spending the holidays?” Don’t be afraid to give a compliment. Most people enjoy them, and will be drawn out by a statement as much as a question. Most importantly, sound interested in the person you are talking to, be mindful in your response to others, and listen and reply to what is being said. At the end of the day, the spotlight is not solely on you. In fact, most people are too busy focusing on themselves to be concerned about anyone else. And if the event truly is unbearable, you can always bail early. Just remember to come up with a legitimate sounding reason first. “We’ve gota get back and tend to our sick puppy!”

3) Yummy Sinful Munchies

Got a special diet? Find out what will be served from the host. If items don’t suite your preference, offer to bring a dish for your “dietary requirements”. The holidays are no different than any other day. So keep as close to your regular exercise regimen as possible. Some exercise is always better than none. Similarly, rigid restriction of treats is a recipe for diet disaster. Unless you have a life threatening health condition like diabetes, allow yourself to enjoy holiday treats… with moderation of course, as with all things in life. And if you fall off the wagon, it’s no excuse to stay off. Each day is a new beginning. Strive to be healthy each day.

4) Meeting the Partner’s Family… Yikes!

If you haven’t already inquired about your significant other’s family members and traditions, now is definitely the time to ask. You want to know in advance what to expect, such as cultural dos & don’ts. Do your research about wearing shoes in the home, appropriate greetings (i.e., handshake, hug, bow, kiss on the cheek), sleeping arrangements, etc. Dress appropriately; although business casual attire is always a safe bet. Be prepared to spend time with the family without your partner immediately present. And of course, make sure to be well-groomed and offer your help around the home. Proper etiquette will give you bonus points in the long run!

5) Seeing Your Own Family… Yikes!

Many movies have depicted the traumatic experience of visiting family for the holidays. The reality is family will always be family, along with their annoying habits, embarrassing stories, and complex dynamics. However, you can mentally prepare yourself beforehand. Practice relaxation exercises and mindful meditations. Give yourself an escape route, such as a walk around the block, if things get too uncomfortable. If possible, find a trusted relative, sibling, or friend who can accompany you during these events and who you can signal to when needed. Remember, the holidays won’t last forever even though it may seem that way in the moment. Woosah…

6) The Kids Are Home

Look into day camps before the holiday season hits. Schedule play dates or field trips with the neighborhood kids. Establish group activities for the kids to be involved in, such as putting up the tree, decorating the home, helping with cooking, wrapping gifts, or sending/making holiday cards. Their help can save you tons of time where you won’t mind their presence.

7) Traveling Chaos

Expect delays, long security check lines, and more delays! So, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, train station, or final destination. Have Plan B in place in case of weather cancellations. Check the weather online before packing, and try not to over pack. If you forget something, you can always purchase or borrow it from someone. Skip the fees and delays of checked baggage by packing travel-sized toiletries or purchasing forbidden items, such as razors, upon arrival. Bring along a bestseller book or the latest gossip magazine to keep yourself entertained. Purchase new songs online to make your waiting period less stressful. These days, you can even pamper yourself with a massage while you wait at (most) airports.

8) Dreaded Gift Buying Decisions

Determine in advance your total budget for gifts this season. Stay within budget by breaking this amount amongst your beneficiaries. Ask people for their wish lists, so you don’t have to stress over what to buy. And return the favor when asked. For mutual friends/family, consider pairing up with another to give a joint gift. It takes the pressure off yourself and spreads the responsibility. There’s no need to drive yourself mad trying to find the perfect gift, if one even exists. People will be appreciative of your gift. As cliché as it sounds; it’s the thought that counts.

9) Gifting on a Budget

Sometimes, hand crafted gifts are more cherished than those bought with excessive dollars. So bring out your creativity and make something instead of spending unnecessary money. Baking, knitting, homemade art, and framed photos and cards are just some examples of inexpensive yet very thoughtful gifts. Just because a gift is expensive doesn’t mean that it will be more appreciated. In fact, some of the most valued gifts are the ones spent with time, effort, and thought. Now comes the big question: which is actually less stressful?

10) Changing Family Life Cycles

Over time, every family will evolve and grow. This may mean that your children will want to spend some holidays with their partner’s family or travel with friends. Embrace these changes as part of life; not as a loss. With changes in the family structure, it’s important to consider other traditions. Perhaps have a joint gathering with the in-laws. Or take this free time to unwind and do some traveling of your own. Change is a necessary part of life and indicates progression. View it as the long-awaited opportunity to pursue new traditions. This could be the year to institute them.

The holidays are just another day. Like the rising and falling of ocean waves, there is always an end to it. And there will be next year to stress over it again. Happy holidays!