The Holiday Season can be just as stressful as it is magical. It not only brings us two of the biggest national Holidays (hello Thanksgiving and Christmas), but also several bonuses- such as work holiday parties, end of the year events, and in some cases (like my family) several birthdays. All these events are sprinkled with the magic of the season and the excitement and magic of being with the people we love- but sometimes without warning, such excitement and magic can turn sour and create a feeling of being overwhelmed instead of fulfilled.
This can happen for several reasons- maybe grandma brought up politics at the dinner table. Maybe you are trying to save money and your family enjoys lavish gift giving. Maybe you are going through a hard time at work and want nothing more than to relax and not think about it but your uncle keeps asking about your career. Maybe you have no interest in having another child, but your distant aunt will not give it up. The list goes on and I am sure we all have our own potential holiday nightmare looming in the back of our mind.
Whatever this Holiday Season brings you, there are a handful of easy ways to help keep the stress to a minimum.
This one may sound like a no-brainer but the holidays happen fast. For a good stretch of time, I would always forget to buy matching Christmas pajamas for my family until it was almost too late, and this would cause unnecessary stress. This year, I had them in my closet in mid-October. Phew! The best way to stay ahead is to plan ahead- with what I like to call a Q4 game-plan. Use a calendar or a spreadsheet (my personal choice- one tab per event) and keep track of date, time, dress code, outfits, items to be bought and other notes. I have found that thinking through the events and hashing out the details keeps me from being overwhelmed as they approach. This can also be said for food planning if you are hosting, and if you are responsible for bringing dishes as well. My family probably judges me but I have gone as far as sending Thanksgiving and Christmas day invitations listing timing of events to make sure we are all on the same page.
Don’t be afraid of details
It’s true, the devil is in the details. But details have the power to make or break your holidays. Have a picky aunt that can’t stand the color red? A sister who is allergic to eggs? These are all notes you should keep track of and brainstorm as you prepare for the season. Think ahead about family pictures, meals, sleeping arrangements, timing of dinner and meals. Most importantly, what details are important to you? To me, my decorations have to be themed, and my family has to wear sweaters on Christmas Eve and Christmas pajamas to open presents. This is a tradition I started when my daughter was born and is very important to me. We also have to wear white on New Year’s Eve due to my Brazilian culture (white represents peace). So be sure to plan for the details and don’t be shy about them. It’s ok to want things to be a certain way- and the best part is almost everyone has a detail that makes the holiday special to them. Sharing this can be a tradition in itself that is meaningful to all.
Set and respect boundaries
We’re getting to the easier said than done section. But I am here to tell you that you should be comfortable enough to voice your preferences and dislikes, especially around your loved ones. Fair warning though- this is a two-way street. Love is about compromising and selflessness- and there is a time for that especially around family and friends during the holidays- but this does not mean that you shouldn’t enforce your boundaries. Recent lay off a sore topic? Be stern in saying you’re not willing to discuss it if it is brought up. There’s a way to express your boundaries that are non-abrasive but firm. Don’t want anyone to kiss your newborn baby? Say it. Help your family understand your why. And same goes for respecting other’s boundaries. If one is expressed, don’t take it personally! Simply respect and validate that you understand. It’s really a simple gesture that goes a long way. Nine out of ten times, clear and direct communication will not only prevent but repair any misunderstandings that may come from boundaries.
Have an escape plan
I don’t mean this literally- although I guess it is never a bad idea to know where the closest exit is. I mean that sometimes it’s ok to want to figuratively escape. Have your escape planned out- whether that is going for a run, grabbing some coffee, or putting down the planning to read a book and get sucked into an alternative reality. The holidays should be enjoyable and exciting, not draining. If you find yourself burning out, put out the fire and don’t for one second feel bad about it. My favorite way to unwind from the demanding planning that comes with holidays with a little one is simply doing nothing and zoning out on the couch with my phone in hand watching Friends or Gossip Girl. Give me a few hours and I am ready to get back to it.
Do you have any tips or tricks to get through the holidays stress-free? Let’s hear them!