The holiday season heralds a time to connect with family and friends, get back to your roots and give generously to others. The holidays bring many things to look forward to, but they also bring stress factors that may feel unavoidable.
It’s hard to not bust your budget on presents, field intrusive family questions and balance your time and obligations. Don’t let stressors threaten to uproot your holiday cheer, though. A little organization, simplification and a proactive, positive attitude will make for a successful holiday season.
Here are 10 ways you can survive the holidays this year:
Set Ground Rules and Stick to Them
The holidays bring out the best in some and the worst in others. When stress is at an all time high, setting boundaries will be necessary to protect and take care of your sanity and health. In your house, you set your own rules, but also set your own ground rules when it comes to how you interact with others.
Say that you’ve decided not to discuss a certain topic. Don’t keep negative conversations going. Be detached to the outcome of the conversation.
Walk away, change the subject or leave if you must. Focus on something positive to get through a trivial moment, whether it’s your kids, your pet or a favorite show. Visualize a mirror which deflects drama or imagine you’re a fog that negativity wafts right through. It may take a while for family members to adjust to your boundaries, but healthy boundaries build positive relationships.
Create a Holiday Spending Plan
Create a plan for holiday spending to keep your budget balanced. Make a list of every holiday expense, including decorations, wrapping paper, cards, work gift exchanges and travel costs. Determine how much you have available for holiday spending from existing or set-aside financial resources. Prioritize spending by category and importance.
There may be ways to save money by making homemade gifts or suggesting a family potluck, for example. Your budget may inadvertently help you to choose a meaningful gift for a loved one, rather than buying several things that overextend your budget. As you purchase an item, cross it off and wrap it.
Get Your Family Involved With Useful Tasks and Fun Activities
Don’t conquer by dividing — conquer by distraction and inclusion. Finding common ground should be your holiday goal to minimize stressful encounters.
Most people want to feel useful. A family member prone to anxiety will be thankful for something to do with their hands, to help out and not engage in awkward small talk. The family member who takes over every task at holiday gatherings should be given a territory, which could be organizing gifts and checking in with family members as they come in. Play to each family member’s strengths and pair conversations and tasks accordingly.
Prepare activities for fun and distraction. Board games are usually safe bets. You could also put on a movie or the game. Give each set of activities their own space, and family members who feel stressed may retreat to their respective corners or bond in others.
Organize a Wacky Family Bingo With Friends
There are certain family situations you won’t be able to avoid, unless you opt out of an event all-together, which may create hard feelings. Tough questions and judgments are part of these gatherings for many, but it doesn’t mean you have to suffer alone.
Replace anxiety and stress by adding humor to the mix and playing wacky family bingo. Get together with friends and design your own bingo card with events that happen at nearly every family event. There’s the one family member who keeps drinking the wine. There’s the one nosey aunt asking when you’re getting married. There’s the one family member who cracks the same bad jokes. Then there’s the set of socks that you receive every year in your stocking.
Text your friends when you land a space. Make a coded checklist on your phone to fill in the events as they happen. A little humor makes it more bearable.
Have a Gimmick
Have a gimmick to use as a tool to distract or engage by your choice. Into photography? Bring or borrow a camera to capture moments at the family event. Have a guitar? Play a few songs for everyone.
Your gimmick can be as simple and silly as a tacky holiday sweater or socks to diffuse stress. Come prepared with trivia questions or talk about your favorite television show to wear out the other conversationalists.
Be Prepared for Extreme Weather
Extreme weather catches many by surprise during the holidays. Enable alerts on your phone to receive emergency updates. If extreme weather happens on the road, react wisely when driving. Every region will have unique driving conditions depending on wind, sleet, snow and ice. Let the car go in the direction it wants to go when skidding and slowly act to bring the car to a stop, for example. Quickly braking or shifting the wheel on ice or water leads to more accidents.
Research what the weather will be like beforehand and have a back up plan if you need to stay longer than anticipated. Have your car tested and serviced before driving long distances to help prevent issues, too.
Plan Meals Ahead of Time
Create meal plans ahead of time to make holiday shopping and cooking easier. Prep and freeze side dishes in advance. Use a well-stocked pantry to your advantage. Break out breads, jams and other selections for holiday snacks, and if you’re so inclined, it is okay to make something from a box, too.
If the holidays will be too stressful for meal planning, opt for a potluck. Create a shareable file where family members see what others are bringing and can add their own contribution. This takes the pressure off of you.
Don’t Overextend Yourself
Simplify as much as possible. Once your calendar or budget has taken all it can, stop. Don’t try to fit in every event. You don’t want to stretch your energy, time or money too thin.
Practice the art of stopping. Others may whine and complain, but overextending yourself leads to grumpy you — which isn’t fun for anyone.
Positive emotions are contagious, and when you make others feel good, it boosts your mood. Let yourself laugh at any humor or irony you find.
Remember to smile, too! People are more prone to displaying positive emotions and are socially set to mirror others empathetically. Boost everyone’s mood by finding ways to bring out smiles.
Give to Yourself
In the spirit of the holidays, you often practice generosity with others but forget yourself. To be your best self, you have to remember to take care of yourself, too.
Take time away when you are stressed. Designate space for yourself in the middle of holiday chaos, and get out of dodge. See a movie by yourself. Take a long bath. Wake up at dawn and grab an early breakfast with a friend. No matter what it is, doing something for yourself will help you handle the holiday chaos.
The holidays don’t have to be stressful. Instead, the holiday season can be successful with a little planning, determination and positivity. When you let go of control and remember to check in with yourself, the beauty and humor of life is more available to you. Enjoy the warmth of the holidays, and be merry.