Here it comes. That most wonderful, awful and everything-in-between time of year. The pressure is on to serve up (and carve!) the perfect turkey. Someone down the hall just mentioned she’s finished her Christmas shopping and you want to wring her neck—or better yet, hire her as your personal shopper. And then there’s the office party. (Ack!) Well, starting this week, we’re taking a vow to keep things cheerfully mellow this year. Are you with us?
Plan Ahead for Sanity This Year
Today’s Friday Five focuses on ways to ramp up the joy and warmth of the holidays while minimizing some of the craziness.
1. Manage those great expectations. As counter to your preference for wild holiday abandon as it may be, a bit of planning will significantly improve your experience. How about a little help from Real Simple’s very complete Ultimate Christmas Countdown Checklist? It would be easy to modify slightly for other holidays, too. A little advance thought—and family discussion—will help manage expectations and eliminate the usual budget-breakers as well. Check Psychcentral’s ways to focus on meaning, not money, at holiday time for some conversation starters.
2. Wise up. If part of your personal holiday stress relates to uncertainty about all the associated rituals, get a grip and grab some basic instruction online. If you sweat bullets at holiday business functions, for example, because you don’t know which fork to use or whether or not to speak to the boss, read Twelve Essential Business Etiquette Tips. Tripped up by small talk? Here are some great tips for making conversation and behaving at events. Overwhelmed by the complexities of gift giving with friends, not to mention dealing with those obligatory presents for the mailman and teachers? Gifts.com serves up advice on that front with its Holiday Tipping Guide.
3. Don’t worry, be happy. If you’re like us, you even worry that you might be worrying too much. So let’s agree to get a little help this season. First stop: A quick test to find out whether our worrying is so bad it is actually impacting our life and health. Second (because, yes, we’re sure it is): Help Guide’s How to Stop Worrying Guide. Then, because we’re worried even that might not be enough, we’re going to find and reread Edward Hallowell’s book, Worry.
4. Douse the flames. It’s way too easy, in the pursuit of the perfect Martha Stewart or Charles Dickens experience, to whip yourself into an unrecognizable frazzle.Just don’t. Your children’s memories will be built on things like the time you all laughed so hard you blew eggnog out your nose, not, we guarantee, your perfect cupcake centerpiece. Your friends want to see your smiling face when they come to dinner—not your individually plated molten lava cakes. So let’s get you some help (and a box of chocolates to serve for dessert). First, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has Nine Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives over the Holidays and Healthyweb.com gives you five things to watch for when dealing with “The Speeding Ticket from God”—depression. Avoid burnout. Take it slow. Prepare for known landmines.
5. Pause to refresh. Yes, the holidays are a time for giving to others, but don’t forget yourself in the mayhem. Our best advice? Forget trying to do it all. Instead, focus on one event, one dish, one passion to indulge. Dispense with obligations and traditions that weigh you down and wear you out. Then spend that “found time” managing the stress with some proven techniques. Perhaps it’s time to master that mainstay of anywhere anytime relaxation and meditate using Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s simple instructions. Or if it takes something more adventurous to press your reset button and get perspective–skydiving, jet-skiing, desert camping or a good long run—then plan now to make it happen.
Don’t forget that you are in charge of your holidays, not the other way around. Focus on the ones you love and … make reservations.