Ah, the holidays. It's a special time of year when we join together with family and friends, look back on a finished year full of joys and sorrows past, and look forward to a new year and a fresh start. At least, it should be. But all too often, it can be far too easy to get caught up in the routine, the hustle, the holiday rush, and to lose track of what you're doing. Even more importantly, it can be easy to lose track of why you're doing any of it. Many people deal with this every year, so here are just a few tips to help you survive this holiday season without pulling out all of your hair or starting a new family feud.
1. Prioritize your time
It happens every year, no matter what holiday you and your family celebrate, doesn't it? On-and-on pile the holiday invitations in an endless flood of scheduled merry-making. Some people thrive in the holiday chaos, but some may find it overwhelming. Too many social events in rapid succession seem just as good a reason to hide in a closet as it is to spend all your free time out. And that's without even accounting for gift shopping and wrapping, decorating, and still managing work and other day-to-day tasks.
Some of those invitations will clash, and you'll be left with an uncomfortable choice. So, what can you do? You have to start by prioritizing. It's probably best to do this at the beginning of the holiday season rather than in the moment. Sure, other things may come up later, but you probably have a general idea of what holiday events and obligations you can expect to encounter. So sit down with your family, lay them all out (notecards or sticky notes on a physical calendar can be helpful for this if you're spatially inclined) and decide what you can fit and what you just can't. Of course, you can't please everybody, but you can make sure you make it through the holidays intact.
2. Plan your travel (and accommodations) well in advance
As though managing multiple holiday engagements weren't stressful enough, adding travel on top of it, particularly long-distance or air travel, has to add several extra millimeters of mercury to your blood pressure. Take out the stress ahead of time by planning your holiday travels as far in advance as you possibly can. Nobody wants to be the living embodiment of a cable TV Christmas movie, the characters dramatically waiting on a standby seat or getting tickets for the wrong flight. It barely worked out for Steve Martin and John Candy, so don't test your luck.
In addition to the peace of mind that preparedness brings, reserving your flight tickets well in advance will likely get you a more competitive rate than a last-minute purchase.
If you plan to travel by car, you can still do some things to prepare in advance and relieve travel-day stress. Have your rest stops planned out, snacks prepared, and self-directed activities ready for the kids. Preparedness will allow you to keep your focus on the road rather than on managing chaos and unhappiness within the car.
3. It's okay to say "no"
Of course, food is one of the things people love about the holidays, especially shared in a loving family gathering. But most are less excited to loosen out to that next-biggest belt notch the following week. Being smart with food over the holidays, like in pointer #3, doesn't mean you can't enjoy those holiday foods you love (and may look forward to all year). You can still have that slice of pie, the candied nuts, the gravy on your turkey or that green bean casserole, just make smart decisions about portion control and don't be afraid to say, "no thanks."
4. In all things, moderation
Principle #3 doesn't stop with food, either. Any special occasion can make it easy to overindulge. The winter holidays can sometimes feel like a hundred individual special occasions happening in just a few weeks. Between work parties, family get-togethers, community events and parties with friends, it can be difficult to maintain self-control throughout the holidays.
Just like saying "no thanks" to seconds or thirds, you can also choose to moderate your intake of the other things like sweets and sodas you're likely to cross during the holidays. Practicing moderation with your food and drinks through the holidays is more than just a good habit and a sign of good character – you'll feel better and more accomplished, too.
5. Remember why you're celebrating
Despite the previously mentioned holiday struggles and any number of others left unmentioned, don't forget the core reasons you're celebrating this season. Whether your reasons are religious, traditional, recreational, or just to have a reason to sit down and enjoy time with family, keep that at the front of your mind at all times. The best set of tips on the internet can't wholly prevent holiday stress, but as long as you have the right mindset, you can at least remember that the stress, hopefully, is worth the trade-off for the time you'll spend with family and friends.