There’s holiday advice we’ve all heard a hundred times: mail your cards early, leave for the airport with enough time to battle a zombie horde and watch a long-form documentary, bake cookies, bake some more cookies, and then bake a few more cookies. Carry little one-size-fits-all presents in case Tom at work springs a surprise gift on you, and honestly, you didn’t even know you two were at the gift-giving level of friendship. There are so many tips and tricks floating around every holiday season that you’ll end up rocking back and forth in a closet trying desperately to remember the name of that one reindeer.
Let’s be honest: there’s a lot that makes the most wonderful time of year … not. Between your crazy uncle who can’t stop talking about politics and the weepy introspection that hits us all when last year’s cute Christmas office party outfit is too snug, the holidays are packed with emotional landmines. How do you get through the holidays without those blowing up in your face?
Keep your Fire Extinguisher Close and Your Chinese Takeout Menu Closer
Between gift-giving and the mother of all family dinners, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be perfect around the holidays. A friend of mine once tried to impress her family by making a turducken but forgot that three times the birds means three times the grease, which is not easily accommodated by a normal roasting pan. Long story short, her Christmas dinner ended up covered in fire extinguisher powder and the Chinese takeout driver got a hefty tip. Disasters happen, and that’s OK. My friend tells her turducken story with a lot of laughter. If you’re a good sport and able to improvise, everyone will still have a good time and you’ll become a family legend.
Long-Term Glam Is the Best Glam
Even the most anti-social of us can end up with a packed social calendar this time of year. That’s a lot of getting gussied up for one month. Go with long-term grooming as the season kicks off to save time and sanity. Not all manicures are created equal, so check with your manicurist to see what they offer that can carry you through the holiday season. A quick change from jeans or slacks to dressy, flirty skirts is made infinitely easier if you go with waxing or laser hair removal. A wise friend of mine once said to make the lazy option the right option, and that’s applicable to everything from eating healthy to dragging yourself out to the umpteenth holiday party of the season.
Avoid Martha Stewart Hell
Time is money, and your time is precious. The holidays are all about experiencing joy and happiness, and how can you do that if you’re making your millionth candy cane sled or learning how to fold your napkins into Christmas tree shapes? If you really want to give out something handmade, hit up etsy. No one will know the difference. This way you get to avoid that ugly 2 a.m. crying episode when you’re out of glitter glue and still have a handful of personalized stockings for your office mates left unfinished. If baking and crafting is your happy place, by all means, go at it. If not, don’t push yourself to be something you aren’t. Play to your strengths — even if your strengths are finding weird things for cheap on Amazon.
Psychology Today tells us that the holidays trigger high incidents of depression. There are a lot of contributing factors in there, everything from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to the pressure for perfection. All jokes aside, it can get overwhelming for everyone, no matter your proclivity for depression. Kick that to the curb by making sure your holiday season is filled with the things that make you happy.
Feeling worn down? Don’t be afraid to say no to your social engagement and get a good night’s sleep. Are Christmas films your prozac? Load up (though not all Christmas films are created equal — I wouldn’t recommend “The Family Stone” if you miss your mom). Think Christmas films are sentimental garbage? Enjoy “Gremlins” and “Die Hard.” And if a few of your favorite things aren’t enough to buoy your spirits, take a walk in the sun or use daylight spectrum light bulbs to fight potential SAD. If things get really bad, reach out to a person in your support circle or a professional.
Is there one activity that you particularly dread every year? One family gathering with a particularly toxic segment of your family, and as much as you’d like you can’t kick the Sackville-Bagginses to the curb? Oprah suggest shaking the event up. If it’s a dinner normally held at someone’s home, take it to a restaurant. Restructure what you’re doing. Change an all-out gift-fest to a white elephant, and host a smaller, more intimate gift-giving with closer relatives later. Remove the fuel that makes that particular cesspool catch fire and claw back some of the joy and happiness you deserve.