5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are kinda weird. For all the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ jingles, it’s also the toughest for many people. Some people over-commit to family, friends, or volunteer tasks and find themselves over-scheduled and unable to actually enjoy the season. Some of us dread the inevitable, obligatory socializing and the pressure of being ‘on’. Some of us are grieving.

So here are a few less-typical Holiday Survival Tips. Some of them are brilliant. Some of them are not. But maybe you’ll find a nugget in here.

Ditch obligations

Just because you’ve always gone to Aunt Sue’s for Christmas Eve doesn’t mean you always have to. You can stop going.

Say, “I’m starting a new tradition this year, I’m really looking forward to cooking with my kids and having a quiet family night.” Then set up another time to visit Aunt Sue when you’ll actually be able to visit her, instead of just a hug between appetizers while stuffed into a small house with 30 loud relatives.

Reframe obligations

When I hear people complain about all the ‘stuff’ they have to do, I usually say, “Dude. Stop doing it.” The typical reply is, “Oh, but I really like having 37 different types of cookies and seeing all my 3rd cousins!” Cool. I can respect that. But stop looking at (and speaking of) the tasks and events like chores.

This isn’t a martyr contest. Nobody gives a darn that Betty SUV Soccer Mom makes her bundt cake from scratch and you use a mix. Except maybe Betty, and that’s her issue. Do stuff because you want to, because it brings you joy. And quit doing the stuff you don’t want to do.

Stick with the people who warm your soul

Some of us are not close with our families. For many, many people, family relationships are rarely nourishing and often painful. We’ve built friendships that stand in for the sibling and parental relationships that will simply never be fulfilling.

So why feel obligated to spend a holiday with anyone other than those who bring us joy and unconditional love? Create a holiday plan with the people you most enjoy and cherish. Or at the very least, make an escape plan to unwind with the people who will let you vent after a stressful family interaction.

Step back from the gift-giving (and receiving) or just change it dramatically

Do you really want another gift set of perfumey bath gel and body lotion? Do you really want to be giving that to someone else? Blech. Maybe it’s time to reexamine your gift-giving habits. Instead of exchanging gifts with your adult friends and family, can you decide to spend that money on having a great dinner together in January?

If you feel really attached to giving a tangible object, can you simplify the process? Find one universal gift, and give it to all your people. Like a jar of local honey from you favorite apiary, or a holiday ornament purchased from a local charity.

Rethink your assumptions

Just because you’ve always done the holidays a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to keep doing that. It’s all a choice. Sometimes you don’t even need to change the pattern, just recognizing that it’s a choice is enough.

Wishing you a happy, merry, joyous whatever-you-celebrate. I hope you get exactly the holiday you want (and deserve).