The Holidays are a lot of fun. Between baked goods, eggnog and piles of gifts, what’s not to love? But, it’s also a notoriously stressful time of year. You’ve got to shop for those gifts, bake the speculaas and stock up on the eggnog. And we haven’t even touched on the family aspect yet.
‘Tis the season to be merry though, so let’s look at how we can celebrate the Holidays without all the usual stress. All it takes is a little planning and mindfulness and you’ll be well on your way to the best holiday ever. Really.
BE FULLY PRESENT
Commit to being full present in everything you do. We humans have a habit of living in the past and future and ignoring the present. This is especially true when we’re busy or stressed. We’re so focused on the argument we just had or the long list of things we still need to get done that we don’t stop to enjoy the moment we’re in.
This leads to missing out on opportunities for connection, whether it’s with ourselves or someone else. Slow down and immerse yourself completely in whatever you’re doing. It could be something as mundane as peeling carrots or waiting in line at the supermarket, it doesn’t matter. Sink into it. Let go of what happened earlier and stop thinking about the next thing you need to do. Be here now. You’ll find it a rather pleasant and relaxing place to be.
LOVING WHAT IS
Families can be hard work. I remember watching Home for the Holidays and totally relating to Matthew Broderick’s character when he says, “I love you mom, but you give me bad hair.”
All families have ‘bad hair’ moments during the Holidays, that’s just a given (unless you live in Stepford, in which case bad hair is the least of your worries).
The trick is to handle those moments with grace. Not easy when you’re stuck in a house full of screaming kids, a demanding mother-in-law and a roast in the oven that’s on the verge of combusting, but it can be done. You just need a few tricks up your sleeve for those instances when things get crazy.
I’ve outlined a few sanity-saving tips below, but before we dive into them, let’s take a moment to immerse ourselves in a little Byron Katie wisdom. She said, “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.”
Put another way, if you can’t change something, it’s pointless fighting against it. Your family dynamics are what they are, the likelihood of them changing aren’t great. So make it your mission to just love things they way they are.
Easier said than done, granted, so here are some tips to take care of yourself and ensure you make it through the Holidays with your sanity (and sense of humor intact).
1. Take a Timeout
Christmas is time for family, sure, but that doesn’t mean you have to be together 24/7. You don’t have to make a big deal about it, just say you’re going for a walk or want to read for a bit. People are pretty understanding and will probably just leave you to do your thing, but if your family doesn’t get your need for ‘me time’ you can always tell a white lie and say you’re going to lie down because you have a headache.
How you approach it is up to you, just make sure you carve out some time just for you. This is especially necessary when people start pushing your buttons, something that invariably happens when families spend time together. If you want to avoid those petty arguments, this is the way to do it.
2. Don’t Force People to Do Things They Don’t Enjoy
If everyone is except aunty May is up for a game of Trivial Pursuit, that’s fine. Leave her to watch her favourite soap if that’s what makes her happy. Not everyone loves boardgames.
If you don’t try to micro-manage the family’s fun activities you’ll probably end up having a lot more fun yourself. Everyone is different and that doesn’t change just because it’s the Holidays. Allow people the room to enjoy this time of year they way they want and while you’re at it, remember to afford yourself the same freedom.
3. Some Thoughts on Holiday Dinners
It doesn’t have to be such a big deal. Remember, it’s about the people you’re breaking bread with, not the bread you’re breaking. Instead of making yourself solely responsible for the entire meal, let everyone bring something and serve it potluck style.
There are a few benefits to this approach. First, it will help keep dishes to a minimum because everyone will take home what’s theirs. Second, it gives folks the opportunity to break out their inner-Nigella and and wow the family with their kitchen skills. And third, it means you won’t be stuck in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun in the livingroom.
4. Take a Chill Pill
If it’s your turn to host the family these Holidays, you need to figure out how to relax and let the chips fall where they may (literally). Your house is going to get a little messy, there’s no way around it. Be okay with that. You can be Bree Van de Kamp the rest of the year, the Holidays are about making memories with your family.
5. Check in Every Now and Then
If you find yourself getting stressed, take a moment to check in. Figure out why you’re not happy and then see what you can do to change that. If it’s something beyond your control, acceptance is key. As Byron Katie says, there’s no point in fighting what is. Use it as an opportunity to go with the flow.
On the other hand, if the source of your unhappiness is within your control, do what you need to do to change it. Don’t get all up in your stuff about it, just change it. Quietly, calmly and with grace. Who am I kidding, grace and family don’t belong in the same sentence, right?
They should, though. At the very least, we should aspire to be better humans when we’re in the company of our loved ones. So often we’ll say and do things we don’t really mean just because we’re angry. Not to put too big of a damper on things, but you can’t always assume there’ll be a next time, so rather do your best this time.
6. Have Some Eggnog
Some people prefer to celebrate the Holidays sober. If that’s you, go for it. (I’m all for avoiding hangovers and embarrassing behavior.) But if you’re inclined to enjoy the odd glass of tipple anyway, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little ‘medicinal’ imbibing.
I’m not saying you should get fall down drunk, but there’s a reason people give you alcohol when you’ve had a shock. It calms the nerves.