5 Tips To Get Through The Holidays Without Completely Wigging Out
Let’s face it. The holiday season, while awesome in many ways, can be one of the most stressful times of the year.
Between family drama, your cousin’s drunken antics, and people staying over and taking up all your precious space, it’s surprising to some that we’re still standing when it’s all said and done.
In light of this, I wanted to provide five simple things you can do to get through this time of the year, and maybe even you’ll find you’re enjoying it more.
1. Claim a Space
This, alone, can be one of the biggest bits of help in keeping your emotions and anxiety in check this year.
It’s enough that Uncle Lou’s in the guest room and your 5 cousins are holding down the living room fort, but when you’re feeling the need to be alone, and cannot get five minutes peace in the bathroom without someone knocking, what do you do?
It’s essential that going into things, the very first thing you plan, logistically, is where your "sane-space" will be.
Where are you going to escape to when obnoxious Aunt Josephine has hit the Nog too hard, and your parents are volleying questions over the table asking about when they’re going to get grandchildren and the fact you’re not getting any younger?
When planning out who’s staying where, and what rooms you’re going to use, think about the escape plan. Think about where you can go that you can get at least 5 minutes of privacy and relative silence to just breathe and collect yourself. If you’re in a relationship, get your partner involved, and make a plan so each of you can have an escape when needed.
This may not be a physical space in the home either. Maybe it’s an outdoor getaway. Maybe it’s a coffee shop down the road that’s open. It could even be just sitting in an empty car for a bit. Just make sure you’ve got a place to go when you feel it’s all about to hit the fan.
2. The “Double-Down" Rule
This particular gem has prevented many a disaster and embarrassment in my life. See, people in my family have a tradition of running late to most events. Every holiday you can count on my Aunt Maria to show up about the time we’re polishing off the last of the potatoes, and getting ready for pie.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an endearing aspect about my family that brings me much amusement, and everyone in my family has some sort of time management quirk like this, including me. However, during times when it’s crucial that activities fall in place when they’re planned, I take an extra precaution and use my “Double-Down" Rule.
Essentially what I do is think about how much time some activity will take, or getting ready for said activity will take…then I double it.
I’m sure you’ve heard of something like this before, but basically this safeguards from the inevitable hiccups that will come along with planning events for an entire family.
If I think it’ll take me 30 minutes to get showered and ready to go, then I give myself an hour. If I know it usually takes about 15 minutes to get to grandma’s, I’ll give myself 30, and not worry about traffic or detours that I come across, or speeding and getting a ticket.
Obviously, things can get pretty out of hand if you do this for every activity throughout the day. So I limit my Double-Down Rule to only apply to things that I believe will take an hour or less.
Meaning, if I think it’s going to be about 4 hours of work to get dinner cooked and ready to serve, I’m not about to give myself 8. You know, unless I don’t care about my family eating cold Christmas ham.
Essentially what this rule does is force you to buffer time for the unexpected delays that the everyday or simple tasks bring about. People tend to grossly underestimate the amount of time they need to do activities, and this rule can help prevent you showing up to dinner an hour late.
3. Have a Check-In buddy
Many times, a stressful Christmas party, or an awkward barrage of questions from a well-meaning, but ultimately socially blind relative can leave you bewildered at best.
I recommend setting up a check-in buddy. This can be a friend or co-worker for a company Christmas party. A spouse or partner for the family get-together. Or maybe even a helpful app such as Pacifica or Calm.
Schedule a check-in, or arrange to be able to pull each other aside for a quick “urgent” conversation during the event.
Simply having another person ask how the night’s going, or how you’re holding up, can be an opportunity to vent a bit, or even laugh off an awkward encounter.
This little mini-session can often relieve some stress and help get a different perspective on things. At the very least, someone pulling you away from the mess for a bit can be a nice short escape so you can regroup.
4. Keep your Health and Nutrition Up
The holidays are a prime excuse to really let yourself go. We’ve all been there, three slices into the pumpkin pie, having left a path of destruction through the ham and potatoes on the twice-full dinner plate.
Although it’s tempting to just give in to those base desires for sugar and carbs, and it may be a tradition of sorts to gorge on an endless buffet of buttery rolls and sweets, it does not do your body good.
I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself. Instead, eat what you really want to eat, enjoy it, slow the experience down, and then be done.
If you have a regular routine of going for a run or walk every day, or working out in some way, don’t put this off during the holidays. I doubt your family would really disown you if you went for a quick run in the morning while everyone’s getting ready.
These routines are essential for your body’s normal functioning. When they get thrown off, you are more likely to be irritable and off-balance emotionally.
Overeating can also impact the mind, making you feel groggy, and spike insulin levels and other nasty chemicals in the body. Not to mention what drinking too much can do to both your mood and behavior.
Plus, that extra time to take a walk, or fulfill your exercise routine, may just be enough independent time away that you can focus and be in a good place entering that day’s activities.
5. Don’t Work
Ok all you workaholics out there, I’m talking to you.
Just put down the phone, close the laptop, the email can wait ‘til you’re back at work.
I’m surprised at how many people admit that they answer work emails and take care of work-related tasks over the holidays.
The nation already has a problem with people not taking vacation days, or using vacation days to catch up on work uninterrupted.
And how many of us out there have multiple gigs going on outside a full-time job?
Any entrepreneurs out there? I know you feel me on this.
This year, let's make the holidays about spending time with those you love. Those that matter in your life, and bring meaning beyond a paycheck.
Unplug for a day or two to just come up for breath, and enjoy other’s company. Play board games, go caroling, watch the game, whatever your family is doing together, do it with them completely present.
Work can wait. You’ll be better off for it, I promise.
Ok, yes, I’m a bit biased on this point, but lets really look at it.
With all that goes on over the holidays, there are so many very good things. But, along with that, there are some very stressful situations that can come up.
I’ve seen family squabbles escalate to breaking points. I’ve seen internal pressures from struggles with depression and anxiety take their toll during these potentially intense times.
If you have a therapist, it may be a good idea to go ahead and schedule a session soon after your planned holiday to unpack all that’s happened. Or, even before so that you can prep and plan for how to handle potential upcoming stressors.
If you don’t have a therapist, it may be something you consider doing. Everyone needs help sometimes, and a therapist is specifically trained to do just that.
If you’re in the Little Rock, AR area, and would like to schedule a session, I am available. I’ve helped many people handle family stressors, many parents manage angry teens, and many individuals learn and grow from experiences in their lives.
I have specific experience with families and teens, and adults dealing with depression, anxiety, trauma, behaviors, and addictions. From marital problems to dealing with major life transitions, I can help. Give me a call at 501-615-7044, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and get a free mini-consultation today.
Robert Hinojosa is a licensed mental health professional, holding licenses in Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, and Florida. Robert owns Avidus Therapy, LLC, a private therapy practice located in Little Rock, AR.
Robert's passion lies in helping those in major transitions in life and facing an uncertain future. He finds value in helping families parent teens and facilitate the successful transition into adulthood. He finds reward in seeing a client through hard times and difficult circumstances, and come out better on the other side, more prepared and confident in life. He enjoys helping couples through tough times in their relationships, and to grow closer and deeper in their connections.