5 Tips for Finding More Joy, Less Stress This Holiday Season
The holidays are upon us and we should all be cheerful and thankful, right?! Well…not so fast. Along with good food and cheer, the holidays often bring frantic schedules, more spending, while highlighting strained family relationships and memories of loved ones who are no longer with us.
The holidays, in a way, mirror our everyday state of mind—except on steroids. Whatever we normally find stressful intensifies. If you’re stressed by certain family interactions (or lack of interactions!) during ordinary days, the feeling gets much worse when we get together for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Without realizing it, many of us regress and childhood patterns of behavior return. Consider the brother and sister who still battle for mom’s attention just like they did as kids, or the competitive cousins who now compare their teenagers’ academic performance while the teens sit at the table and watch this dynamic.
The goal, of course, is to make the holidays as pleasant and as memorable as possible. Here are five family survival tips that will get you through dinner and then some.
Make things easier on yourself.
Not surprisingly, women tend to feel more stressed during the holidays than men. This is likely due to the multiple hats that women wear and their desire to make sure that the holidays go well in so many ways for so many people. Try very hard to get enough sleep throughout the holidays. We’re all more pleasant when we’re rested. Make an attempt to divide up the responsibilities so that no one family feels financially or otherwise overwhelmed by the holiday. Try to keep things as fun and simple as possible. Your family is more likely to remember a good laugh than an elaborate dish.
Lower your expectations (and expect things to go wrong!)
If you’re expecting Thanksgiving to be perfect then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Lower your expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised. When it comes to the holidays in general, the Thanksgiving turkey may get overcooked; your son may seem non-plussed about the Hanukkah gift you carefully selected; your daughter might get sick; the point is, things will go wrong.
Keep the conversation light.
Stick to less than controversial topics. Discussions around politics and finances are never harmonious. You should also be mindful of how you “converse” with your body language. You may not have snubbed someone with your words but you may do it with your body. Pay attention.
Limit your alcohol intake.
We all know that alcohol causes disinhibition, and disinhibition makes you much more likely to say something that rubs someone the wrong way. The holidays are are not the time to resolve family conflicts, says Prakash Masand, MD, president of Global Medical Education, and a former Consulting professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center. “Many individuals use the family holidays to try to resolve long-standing conflicts with family members, often with disastrous consequences, particularly when alcohol is involved,” he says. “Leave addressing those issues to a later time in a one-to-one conversation.”
Remind yourself that you’re at the Thanksgiving table —or any holiday table— to give gratitude and celebrate rather than to stress and compete.
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