You can! Thinking about the holidays and spending time with family doesn’t have to cause anxiety—your life is probably stressful enough. Instead, it should be something you look forward to and truly enjoy each year.
Getting through the holiday season with a smile on your face really comes down to adhering to five simple rules:
- Don’t do too much.
- Deal with disagreements properly.
- Take care of yourself.
- Remember what’s important.
- Behave yourself.
If you can do these five things, you should be able to smile throughout the season, especially when with family and friends.
Don’t Do Too Much
The first step is to refrain from scheduling too many things for you or your family to do during the holiday season. Many families have too many traditions they try to cram in each year, resulting in a stressful season for everyone.
Sit down with your entire family and decide how much time you have and how many activities you can realistically fit in. Then make a list of the agreed-upon family favorites and schedule those first. There’s no need to waste time on old traditions the kids have outgrown or no one enjoys anymore. Clearly, there comes a time when visits to Santa need to be scrapped or replaced with more age-appropriate activities. Including everyone in the planning process will illustrate that all opinions are valued, making the holidays even more meaningful.
If there’s time left over and everyone is up for it, you can add more activities at the last minute. Starting with a shorter, more realistic list of accomplishments will be less stressful and more enjoyable. Too much on the list will keep you rushing and not allow enough time to really enjoy each activity.
Deal with Disagreements Properly
All families have disagreements; realistically, you can’t change that. But, you can change the way you deal with them. Instead of responding defensively or with animosity, try to stop and consider where the other person is coming from. Try to understand why they believe what they do or why they feel the need to argue about this or that. Chances are they only want attention.
Instead of retaliating, however, change the subject. If it’s attention they’re looking for, you can give it to them in a constructive way. Try asking questions to focus on them. It’s a great way to get to know anyone better.
Take Care of Yourself
If you don’t take care of yourself during the holidays, you will be more easily stressed, making it difficult to truly enjoy the moment.
Schedule time for yourself every day and do whatever it is that makes you happy and relieves stress. Turn the ringer on your phone off or let the answering machine answer all calls, have a cup of tea, take a warm bath or read a book. Be sure to fit time in for exercising as well. Being active releases endorphins, which are natural stress relievers. If things start heating up at a family gathering, don’t be afraid to get out and take a walk around the block to clear your head.
Remember What’s Important
This season, focus on what’s really important—those around you. The holidays are a great opportunity to spend quality time with family and good friends. It should be a time of peace and love, so put all old arguments and disagreements away and focus on the present. You can’t change who your relatives are, but you can try to make the most of the time you spend with them.
Holiday gatherings are always good opportunities to learn your family’s history if you don’t already know it. Ask grandparents to tell you stories about your family’s roots or what their childhood was like. They’ll love to reminisce and will appreciate the attention and interest you give them.
Let’s face it—someone is the relative who likes to pick fights and talk about controversial issues at Christmas dinner. If that’s you, do everyone a favor and behave yourself this year. While it may be fun for you to argue about who should have won the last election or which religion is best, it causes tension and makes most people uncomfortable.
Even if that’s not you, there are some things you can probably do better to make the most of the evening; no one’s perfect, after all.
Follow the golden rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. While you can’t change others’ behavior, you can do your best to make sure your behavior is good. Always remember to think before you speak, be kind and treat everyone with respect. Putting forth this effort will make your family gathering much more enjoyable for everyone. TPW