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Surviving Holiday Stress

Surviving Holiday Stress

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Reserve some private time with your loved one to rekindle the romance.

The whirlwind of everyday life can sweep you and your beloved into a frenzy if you're not careful.

Take a cue from Charles Dale, the busy chef of the Renaissance and Rustique Bistro restaurants in Aspen, Colorado. He makes a point to take time out from his schedule when times get hectic to enjoy an indulgent one-on-one meal with his beloved. "When my wife and I first met, it was actually just before the holidays," Dale says. "On Christmas Eve, I showed up at her house with foie gras, caviar, and a bottle of Chateau Suduiraut. For us, that is a memory of romance that we like to repeat, so we do, every year."

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Everyone may not be able to afford such extravagance, but a quiet meal with your loved one is about time spent together, not expense. You could even stage your romantic rendezvous with takeout if the atmosphere is right.

Rachel Ashwell, whose Shabby Chic book series and TV program (on cable's Style network) show ordinary people how to create extraordinary rooms on a budget, knows the importance of setting the right scene. "It's nice to carve out a time for gentle things, rather than just rushing around," she says.

Her recipe for romance? "Turn off the telephone. Turn off all distractions. Put nice music on in the background.

"Candles, subtle scents, and comfort―keep those things, and they make it easier for romance to take place," Ashwell suggests.

Table for Two: The Health Benefits
Regardless of what you eat, a romantic dinner might actually be good for your health. According to recent study results published in Consumer Reports on Health, enjoying quiet time with your spouse or partner can lower blood pressure. The study, conducted by the State University of New York-Oswego and the University of Pittsburgh, found that the security of a long-term relationship sends a safety signal that tells the body to relax. Participants' blood pressure was significantly lowered during social interaction with their partners, as opposed to other social interactions or no interaction at all.

Tips for Surviving Holiday Anxiety

As a child, the holidays were always a magical time for me, full of family, food, sparkle lights, Santa, and presents. But as I grew up, and mostly when my parents split up 10 years ago, the holidays became trickier, and new emotions crept in along with the excitement. I still love the holiday season but certain aspects of it can be overwhelming at times.

I wrote about how to survive the holidays with divorced parents here, but wanted to touch on holiday anxiety in general because I’ve realized, after many conversations with friends and family, that almost everyone I know suffers from it to some extent. The tips listed below have helped me a lot during a time that can be difficult for many people, especially those who suffer from anxiety.

Some of my triggers during the holidays are: Pleasing everyone in my family and feeling guilty if I don’t, overcommitting throughout the season, getting off of my regular routine, eating more sugar which always affects my mood, and spending too much money. These action steps have helped me survive the holidays and enjoy this time of year even more!

FYI This was a post from 2018 that I updated with more tips and insight.

1. Don’t overextend yourself. There are so many exciting parties and events and tree trimmings and Friendsgivings happening right now. Why would you want to say no to fun activities that are full of good food, good drinks, and good friends? But too many parties, plans, and late nights can make you feel burnt out and exhausted during the workweek. I know that when I feel that way, my work suffers and I end up eating badly. Remember that it’s ok to say no even if you don’t have an excuse. And it’s ok to need a night at home with a cup of tea and a good movie. Even on a (gasp) weekend!

2. Stick to your regular routine… whenever possible. I’m a creature of habit, and I’ve learned in therapy that when I get off of my routines, everything gets thrown out of whack and anxiety creeps in. With all of the travel and events going on during the holidays, I’ve found it to be super important to stick to routines when I can. For example, while we’re away for Thanksgiving next week or Christmas next month, I’ll stick to my bedtime routine and try to work out and move my body during the day.

3. Set up a gift-giving budget. Giving people I love presents that they love is one of my favorite things in the whole world, but the financial strain it brings is not. For the last three years, Anel and I have sat down and made a budget for how much we can spend on holiday gifts including how much we spend on each other. While that might not sound very romantic, it helps set ourselves up for success come January when business slows down for both of us every year. And it gives us guidelines that make gift buying less stressful.

To get even more specific, I have a Google Doc spreadsheet where I keep track of everyone we shop for, what we bought, the cost, whether it’s arrived or not, and if it’s wrapped. This spreadsheet is incredible and I love it and yes it’s probably insane but I don’t even care! Also, don’t buy anything full price if you can help it. Everything is on sale pretty much from now until Christmas, with the best sales happening next week for Black Friday.

Speaking of gifts, don’t forget to check out my holiday gift guide if you haven’t yet. I bet 90% of this will be on sale over the next few days.

4. Eat and drink in moderation. My 80/20 rule for health usually ends up getting bent during the holiday season and I always regret it because I feel bloated, tired, and generally icky. I’ve already started feeling that so whenever I can, I try to implement my post-travel detox, or just parts of it, even when I’m not traveling. A day or two of this in between the madness can really help.

I never condone depriving yourself, especially with all of the amazing goodies laying around this time of year, but I also know that if you overdo it, you won’t feel so hot. So eat and drink the things you love but don’t use the holidays as an excuse to go totally bananas. Read my post from last winter on how to stay healthy during the holidays here. It touches on physical, mental, and home health.

5. Get rid of guilt. This one is easier said than done but I know that I personally feel guilt during the holiday season because I can’t be with everyone for every holiday. With divorced parents and a set of in-laws, that’s three different whole groups of people that we want to make sure that Amalia gets to see.

But last year we decided to make our own plan for Thanksgiving. We’re heading to Bermuda as a family of three with no pressure, no cooking, and no real traditions. Making that decision felt very empowering. Anel and I decided to banish our guilt and do something that made us feel happy and excited. We made an effort to see everyone in our families over Christmas to make up for it.

This year we’re spending Thanksgiving with my family and, for the first time, Christmas with his. Even though his parents don’t celebrate Christmas, they have become a huge part of Amalia’s life and we really wanted her to share this magical holiday with them. We also really wanted to wake up on Christmas morning in our new home. Telling my family that we would be apart on Christmas was really hard but it was also really important. I’m definitely going to miss them but we picked another weekend in December to celebrate together so that we won’t miss out on some of our favorite Christmas traditions together.

6. Don’t play the comparison game. Once Halloween ends, our Instagram feeds are covered in tartan and twinkle lights (that would be a good name for Mrs. Claus’s blog!) and it’s easy to feel like your home needs to be an overly-decorated winter wonderland right away. But this year I’ve made the decision to stop looking at Instagram so much on the weekends, and if I see something that makes me feel less-than, I skip right over it. Remember that things aren’t always as they appear and try not to compare your holiday decorations or holiday wardrobe or holiday fun to anyone else’s.

7. Practice gratitude. Whenever I’m feeling anxious, especially during this time of year, I take some time in the early morning or after Amalia is in bed to make a cup of tea, sit somewhere cozy with a blanket, close my eyes and feel thankful for everything good in my life. If you don’t have time for that, close your eyes at your desk at work for 30 seconds, take a deep breath and name 3 things you’re thankful for in that moment… in your head, unless you want your coworkers to think you’re losing your marbles! You can do this in line at the grocery store, while you’re driving (with eyes open, obviously), or before you fall asleep.

8. Allow yourself to enjoy it. Take a step back and enjoy the great parts of this year. If you have kids, soak up their excitement. If you love holiday music, play Christmas carols while you cook. If you love egg nog, drink some damn egg nog!

9. Talk to someone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed or anxious, talk to a friend or your partner about it. Sometimes it helps to get another perspective on your feelings. My friend and I have a new system where we text each other our “micro anxieties” throughout the week just to get them off our chest. It has been helping a lot just to put them in writing. What we call micro anxieties are the silly little things that don’t warrant a full conversation with anyone but build up to create anxiety in both of us (we’re both medicated and in therapy too). She might text me that her kids refused to get dressed for picture day at school and I’ll text her that I’m worried about Boots while we’re away. Sometimes we’ll offer help or advice but mostly we just answer with an “I hear you” or a heart emoji. It’s just about someone else knowing what you’re going through in that moment.

So those are a few of my tips for combatting holiday anxiety! I hope they’re helpful. Let me know how you handle stress and anxiety around the holiday season below.

Kidney-Friendly Holiday Meal Preparation

  • Make your own gravy using drippings from the turkey it will be less salty than gravy from mixes and jars. You can never beat the taste of a fresh homemade turkey gravy!
  • Double boil potatoes and other vegetables to reduce potassium and make them a healthier choice for your holiday meal.
  • Reduce or cut out the salt from any recipe to make it more “renal friendly”. Start by reducing the amount in half.

6 Healthy Ways To Handle Holiday Stress

It's no secret that the "most wonderful time of the year" is also often the most stressful. The holiday season may bring lots of joy, but it can also mean coming face-to-face with financial strain, tense family relationships, and endless to-do lists. Friends, don't fret: There's hope. You can make things a bit easier by taking extra care of yourself during the holidays. "The first thing is to recognize is that stress is not something that happens to us, but how we respond to circumstances," Heidi Hanna, Ph.D., of the American Institute of Stress tells SELF. "Life is full of challenges and obstacles, and when handled with a sense of grace and ease can build us up rather than tear us down." Below, a few healthy ways to channel holiday stress.

Unplugging to spend some time in nature is a great way to slow down overwhelming thoughts and reconnect with the present moment. A nice walk in the park—or even just around the block—can help remind you what really matters to you. It's even better if you can find a way to squeeze in some extra exercise while you're out, because endorphins are your BFF in times of stress. "Physical exercise helps decrease stress hormones and builds a more resilient body and mind," Hanna explains.

Remind yourself of everything that makes your life wonderful, and of exactly why you appreciate those things. Every morning (or just when you're feeling extra low), jot down a few things that you're grateful for. You may even enjoy sending a thank-you note to someone you love, or baking them a few extra holiday cookies.

"Start each day focusing on what really matters," Hanna suggests. "It’s critical to intentionally direct your attention to the things that are most important to you before you allow your brain to get taken over by the negative news and noise of the world." This is especially true this time of year, when you're regularly bombarded with holiday advertisements and bright lights everywhere you turn. Hanna suggests that people experiencing extra stress set aside three to five minutes every morning to "[meditate] on what you appreciate in life, and plan time throughout the day to do nice things for others."

"There is no greater buffer to stress than serving others," Hanna explains. Volunteering, even for an hour or two every few weeks, is an excellent way to escape the trappings of your own stressed-out mind. If it's tough to squeeze volunteer work into a packed holiday schedule, find time to be kind to others in your everyday life. Holding the door for a stranger or paying for the person behind you on the coffee shop line may not make all your stressors magically disappear, but it certainly helps lighten your emotional load—and it's guaranteed to brighten someone else's day, too.

In this 24/7 world, most of us are constantly on the go. Mix in a whirlwind of holiday parties and gift shopping, and that breakneck pace becomes even more difficult to maintain. It's completely human—and healthy—to take periodic breaks to rest up. "Build in some extra downtime to recharge your inner battery," Hanna suggests. "Be sure to get enough sleep to repair your system." Aim to get 7.5 to 9 hours of shut-eye each night.

It's hard to remember now, but at one point, youɽ never heard the words "bills" or "work deadlines" before, and this season was solely about candy canes and whimsy. Take yourself back to the holidays of your childhood by carving out time to enjoy things that make you happy. "Put together a positivity playlist, with songs that inspire you or help you unwind," Hanna suggests. Pop on your favorite holiday tunes. Press "play" on Love Actually for the twentieth time—we won't tell. If it helps you reconnect to the joy at the heart of the holidays, it's worth your while. Remember: You can get through this. It will be January before you know it.

Surviving Holiday Stress

I truly believe that prayer can change the future, so pray hard before you go! Pray specifically for whatever your family or friends struggle with, what situations/conversations may come up, or anything that bothers you about them. Your family/friends may need to change, but we as individuals also may need to change. Prayer can reveal anything you may need to change about yourself as well.

Prepare mentally by thinking through &ldquoif/when&rdquo situations. For example, if fill-in-the-blank happens, I will then do xyz. This is an idea I came across in Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Urban, but it applies to so many things. Family issues, conflicts, health choices, etc. So for example, &ldquoIf a heated discussion comes up, this is how I&rsquoll respond.&rdquo

I personally prepare emotionally by meditating, so I do my best to do every session leading up to the holiday. Even if I can&rsquot completely keep up while there, at least I went into it on top of my game.

Take time while away for the holidays to stick with your normal routines. Maybe that&rsquos sleeping and waking at the same times, going to the gym, etc. Where I&rsquom going this year, I won&rsquot have access to a gym, so I already have an exercise routine planned as well as some local walks. A bonus is that gym or exercise time can also give you time away if things are too stressful where you&rsquore staying!

I eat very mindfully on a normal basis and feel great because of it, so I&rsquom mostly going to eat healthy through the holidays but also have those once a year treats too! I&rsquom not going to restrict myself, but I&rsquom also not going to mindlessly eat way too much sugar, crash later, then have no energy to enjoy what&rsquos important to me. I&rsquom choosing ahead of time to focus on meats and veggies (and I&rsquom bringing some healthy alternatives for sides), then I&rsquoll enjoy some dessert without feeling like I&rsquom eating tons of junk on top of more junk.

Those are just a few thoughts on minimizing stress around the holidays! What do you do before or during a holiday? Share below!

Tips for Beating Holiday Stress

Once you’ve taken a clear look at the holidays -- about what works and what doesn’t -- it’s time to make some changes. Focus on the holiday stresses that you can control. That includes making different plans and changing your responses to situations. Here are four key don’ts for the holidays.

  • Don’t do the same old thing. If the usual family gathering is causing holiday stress, try something else. If you’re too overwhelmed to host, discuss other possibilities with family members. Maybe a sibling could have the dinner this year.
  • Don’t expect miracles. If your holiday anxiety stems from a deeper history of family conflict, don’t expect that you’ll be able to resolve any big underlying issues now. Sure, it’s supposed to be a season of forgiveness and good will. But in the midst of a hectic holiday season, you can’t pin your hopes on leading family members to big emotional breakthroughs. You may be better off focusing on your own state of mind and confronting difficult issues during a less volatile time of year.
  • Don’t overdo it. To reduce holiday stress, you have to pace yourself. Long before the family gatherings actually happen, decide on some limits and stick to them. Stay one or two nights at your parents’ house instead of three or four. Plan to drop by the holiday party for a couple of hours instead of staying all night.
  • Don’t worry about how things should be. “There’s a lot of cultural pressure during the holidays,” says Duckworth. “We tend to compare ourselves with these idealized notions of perfect families and perfect holidays.” But in fact, most people have less than perfect holiday gatherings -- they have family tension, melancholy, and dry turkey too. If you have negative feelings, don’t try to deny them. Remember that there’s nothing wrong or shameful or unusual about feeling down during the holidays.

Celebrate Mindful Eating During the Holidays

The holiday season is in full swing! This is such a joyous time, but along with the joy comes stress, expectations, and anxiety over nutrition choices. No need to fret though. You can handle this time of year with grace and ease, if you have the right tools in your toolbox. Holiday parties, sweet treats, a plethora of cocktails, family meals, and stress are no match for you! How can you survive all of this, enjoy your favorite foods and traditions, and still keep your sanity and health in balance? It’s all about taking a more mindful nutrition approach that focuses on self-care rather than punishment. Read on for top nutrition tips from some of my favorite dietitians, who are dishing out advice on how you can celebrate mindful eating during the holidays in order to enjoy them with peace, grace, and self-care.

Celebrate Mindful Eating During the Holidays

1. Be Consistent in Your Eating Habits. The holidays are not the time to significantly alter your eating habits. “Don’t skip meals in hopes of saving up the calories for the big dinner. Eat consistently and mindfully,” says Allegra Gast, RD, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at Aloha Nutrition.

2. Don’t Overly Restrict. Healthy eating patterns come from being less restrictive and enjoying all food groups. “All foods fit. Choose healthy portions—you can enjoy larger portions of healthy foods while still being able to enjoy smaller portions of the treats you love. This beats strict diets and banning entire food groups,” says Lisa Young PhD, RDN, and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.

3. Combat Stress with Nutrition. Movement, gratitude, and eating your veggies are key in helping manage stress. “Vital nutrients like vitamin C, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins can be depleted when the body undergoes even minor stress encountered on a daily basis. Getting daily exercise and movement, incorporating more vegetables into your diet—even just one or two servings per meal, and practicing gratitude are some things that can be done to help alleviate stress,” says Jeanette Kimszal RDN, NLC.

4. Rev Up Your Energy Levels. This advice is a gold mine when it comes to keeping your energy levels high in order to meet your demands. “Keep your energy and metabolism up during the holidays by reducing stress, adding fiber-rich foods to your plate, staying hydrated, pacing yourself while eating, and going for a pre- and post-meal walk,” says Jane Pelcher, RDN, recipe developer, and food stylist of Jane The Dietitian.

5. Snack Before Parties. Here’s a simple trick to keep yourself from overindulging. “Stay mindful of hunger and have a small snack before going to holiday parties like a yogurt or an apple with PB. Also, try to slow down eating and enjoy each bite. Allow yourself to have a small portion of a sweet holiday favorite,” says Janet Brancato MS, RDN of MyNutopia.

6. Be Mindful in Your Eating. This is the perfect time of year to practice mindful eating. “Instead of stressing about calories, mindfully eat. Focus on slowing down and enjoying your food from a plate. Put your fork down, slowly chew your food, and finally take a sip of your drink before picking up your fork to prepare your next bite,” says Lacy Ngo, MS, RD of Mindfulness in Faith and Food.

7. Get Your Blood Pumping. Let’s not forget how important movement is. “Health is not only about nutrition. Physical activity or fitness is another aspect of health. Enjoy the food, festivities, and people that come with the holidays, but also stay active with whatever gets your blood pumping,” says Jaymar Saniatan, RD of Nutrition Phitness.

8. Keep the Water Flowing. Water helps combat fatigue. “Stay hydrated instead of caffeinated. Grab water when you’d usually go for more coffee or soda,” says Lisa Andrews, RD of Sound Bites Nutrition.

9. Go Easy On The Alcohol. Too much alcohol puts unnecessary stress on the body. “Imbibe mindfully at the holidays to stay healthy this winter. No only does alcohol depress the immune system, but winter cocktails can be packed with sugar and fat. The good news is that there are some lighter options. Guidelines state that men should limit alcohol intake to 2 servings per day and women should limit to 1 per day which can be a challenge during holiday party season. Enjoy a cocktail if you want to and then switch to soda water with a beautiful holiday garnish when you’re finished,” says Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN of Champagne Nutrition.

10. Enjoy Doing You. Unpleasant changes can be unsustainable. “Find enjoyment in some health-related behaviors, such as consuming nutritious foods that you like, or engaging in activities that you genuinely enjoy. So often, people try to drastically change their dietary habits or their exercise routines to do what they think they should do, and these changes can be unsustainable if the enjoyment factor is lacking. Instead, add some veggies that you love, prepared in a way that you love, to your holiday table (and your daily intake) and aim to move in a way that you enjoy every day (or most days),” says Alyssa Lavy MS, RD, CDN, and owner of Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness LLC.

11. Have Some Fun in the Kitchen with Your Family. With all the stress of the season, it’s important to remember to make some room for fun. “Schedule fun local activities with your family—from Christmas tree lighting to Christmas cookie baking and volunteering at your local soup kitchen. The little things make the holidays way more special and stress-free, which are all important for mental health and wellness,” says Kristina LaRue RD, CSSD from Love and Zest.

12. Slow It Down. Finding time for relaxation is important this time of year. “Take time for yourself. We can get pretty busy during this time, which causes a lot of stress and can lead to less supportive dietary choices. Be sure to have a timeout or two over the next month where you can relax, slow down and not be rushing. You’ll be amazed at the results,” says Mary Purdy, MS, RDN, and Host of Mary’s Nutrition Show.

By Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN and Julie Suttle, MS, Dietetic Intern

For other ideas on how to celebrate mindful eating during the holidays, check out:

3 Keys to Survival

To make the feasting season a healthier one, experts say, it's important to do three things: Practice awareness, manage your stress and emotions, and plan in advance.


  • Be conscious of what you eat and how much, says Karmeen Kulkarni, MS,RD, BC-ADM, CDE, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. Allow yourself some special treats on the holidays but have moderate servings. When there's a lot of food available, try an appetizer-sized helping of each dish instead of dishing up a full serving.
  • "'Tis the season to be realistic," says Schmid, noting this is not the best time for weight loss. She recommends trying to maintain weight instead of lose it.
  • Be sure to keep it all in perspective, the experts say. "Even though it's the holiday season, it doesn't mean for the next three months, you can do whatever it is you want," says Thayer. "Allow [some treats] for the special days, but then get back into your healthy routine the next day."
  • Always look for opportunities to move, says Bryant. For example, take a brisk walk whenever you get a few minutes stand up and move around while you're on the phone call and walk to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing him or her.


2. Manage Stress and Emotions

  • One way to keep stress at a minimum is to lower your expectations about holidays. Ask for help to lighten your holiday schedule. Host a potluck holiday meal instead of cooking dinner. Or serve it buffet style instead of having a sit-down meal.
  • Learn to say "no," in a courteous manner, to activities and food that aren't in your best interest. "People may grow to respect it, and may even emulate it," Clemens says.
  • If you're sad about a loss, turn to people for comfort instead of food. "Invite a new member to your holiday table," says Schmid. "Maybe it's not the same without a loved one, but think of new traditions."
  • At social events, don't fill silence with food. "Many people will eat and drink any beverage because they don't know what to say or how to act," says Clemens. Instead, he recommends making an effort to really get to know people, beyond superficial small talk: "When we do that, we actually have the tendency to eat less," he says.
  • Another way to deal with emotions is to make sure exercise remains a priority in your life. Exercise can be a great stress reliever.
  • Eat a little before you go to a holiday gathering hunger can undo the best intentions.
  • Also, avoid sources of temptation whenever you can, says Thayer. After visiting a buffet, leave the room that's filled with food. If there are sweets in the office break room, don't go there. If you're given unhealthy food as a gift, bring it to the office to share.
  • If you're traveling for the holidays, pick up some healthy, portable snacks at the grocery store before you leave so you're less likely to be tempted by unhealthy options.
  • Think about what really matters during this busy time of year, and plan accordingly. "Figure out what you absolutely have to do, because there always are some obligations," says Laubgross. Then let go of the rest.
  • Also, schedule a brisk walk or hike after a holiday party or meal. "Five minutes of exercise is better than 20 minutes of nothing," says Schmid.

Surviving Holiday Imperfections: Planning For The Worst Case Scenario Could Make For Your Best Holiday Ever

Now that the holiday season is here, you're probably somewhere between "a little anxious" and "ready to lose my mind!" on the stress scale. Let's take a moment and ask where this stress comes from. How much of it arises from what’s on your endless to-do list? And how much of it is due to the pressure you put on yourself to check off every single item?

Each year we have a mental checklist of the things that we must do. We trudge onward, no matter how stressed we feel, ensuring that each item gets done. But what if you can't buy all the presents you want to buy? What if only some of the Christmas lights are hung on the house? What if you can't make those homemade pies? Will the holiday season suddenly lose all meaning? What would actually happen if one of these responsibilities slips through the cracks?

Often the fear of falling short is worse than what would happen if you actually did. It may be beneficial to think more positively and believe that you will accomplish everything on your to-do list. However, I suggest that it might be best to imagine a worst-case scenario and explore how it would actually feel if this frightful thing occurred.

Answer the following questions to discover whether you’re stressing yourself out unnecessarily. (I’ve included sample answers to help guide your responses.)

1. Describe a worst-case scenario that is causing you stress this holiday season.
Every year I bake three homemade pies for my family holiday celebration. This year I just don't have the time to do this and I'll need to buy pies at the store. We'll still have pies but they won't be made from my own recipes.

2. How does it feel? What are the consequences of this scenario?
I feel upset with myself. My family will wonder why we don't have the usual homemade pies. My kids might be disappointed. The pies won't taste as good.

3. What are your true top priorities for the holiday? Will this scenario jeopardize these priorities?
My top priorities are spending quality time with my family and making sure that everyone gets along. Although I'd prefer to bake my pies and everyone would enjoy them, it probably won't drastically affect the time we spend together as a family.

4.Imagine looking back on this scenario many years from now. Will this be a major negative experience that you or your family will remember?
Probably not, especially if I make sure that I bake the pies next year.

By answering these questions and forcing yourself to carefully consider your worst-case holiday scenarios, you can determine whether you are stressed about something that will dramatically affect your holiday season or whether your concern is relatively unimportant. At first, all of the items on your to-do list will seem equally essential. However, you may discover that some deserve your time and attention while others will have no notable impact on the quality of your holiday season.

It's tempting to take on a huge list of holiday responsibilities each year. Unfortunately, we tend to assume that our holiday will be ruined if just one of these responsibilities goes unfulfilled. Take a clear, rational look at your responsibilities and determine how much each one really matters. Most of the time, you'll find that letting them go won't affect the quality of the time you enjoy with your family or compromise any other top holiday priorities. Take the plunge and picture the worst-case scenario you'll often be pleasantly surprised at what you see.

10 Tips to Surviving Holiday Gatherings with the Family

A friend of mine recently commented that she rated her family a 3 out of 5 for drama-related holiday issues. As she mentally prepared herself for her annual Thanksgiving visit, she described anticipating the following predictable scenes: her classic, sweet but "over-indulging" uncle largely ignored until his alcohol-fueled antics end up being mean and hateful, the dueling culinary aunts who constantly criticize each other's cooking while snidely remarking on all of the dishes, and political arguments by opinionated relatives whose lack of facts would be hilarious except for the constant threat of violence and tension.

C'mon, we've all been there. Simply put, there are times when holiday gatherings are not fun and joyous but remind you of how dysfunctional your family actually is. If you are lucky, and can find a trusted sibling, cousin or spouse to share your amazement or disgust then a simple declaration to validate your experience can be a relief. However, if you find yourself thinking. "Am I the only one who feels like there is something seriously wrong with these folks?" then read these tips.

  1. Reflect on past experiences. Examine what worked and what didn't. If sleeping arrangements left you cranky and tired, think of an alternative. Shorten your trip or bunk somewhere else.
  2. Have an attitude of gratitude. Yeah, they may be annoying, but it's your family.
  3. Resolve previous differences. It is not helpful to go home for the holidays to rectify an old disagreement. Make a phone call, send a text, write a letter with the intention of smoothing out any misunderstanding before you go.
  4. Look for the humor. Try not to take everything so seriously. Sometimes you just have to laugh and say, "It is what it is".
  5. Exercise. Take your gear, plan to workout, and organize a family walk or active game. It's a great stress-buster and if nothing else you will feel energized and more optimistic.
  6. Invite a friend. Friends can offer a new perspective on your family and help create a more positive context.
  7. Organize an event that creates a memory. For example, create a cookbook. Ask relatives to donate stories or recipes to share with each other. Take pictures and make a photo album to share.
  8. Be yourself. These are folks who love and support you, no matter what. Relax and reconnect with your roots.
  9. Set your own ground rules. Don't' allow yourself to be baited into behavior that is out of your character.
  10. Keep a positive mindset. When presented with comment that may seem hurtful, ask yourself, "What's another way to look at that?"

Holiday gatherings can be stressful but also rewarding. Stay focused on the true meaning of the holiday by being thankful and having a goal of creating meaningful memories. If you still have holiday gathering angst, then smile and realize that you are not alone.

Watch the video: 7 Crucial Holiday Travel Tips to Avoid Stress (October 2022).