I’m offering a few tips that have helped me thrive through this particular busy season in the past. Maybe they’ll help you too.
Identify Your Safe People
Ah. The splendor of family together. Great Uncle Ben with his inappropriate jokes. Or Cousin Sandra who spends the entire Thanksgiving meal talking about how poorly turkeys are treated. Then, of course there are the real doozies. Dad with his hypercritical opinion about your new boyfriend or your sister-in-law with her passive aggressive way of telling you she hates you (eh-hem, your haircut). Ah . . . family. Gotta love ‘em. That may be so, it really helps to know who (whether in the family circle or not) you can consider your “safe” people. Friends or that super close sister you can call up or huddle together with as they remind us we can do this, only twenty-four more hours. Safe people are the ones you trust. They uplift and encourage. You don’t feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them or cringe whenever they open their mouths.
Once you figure out who at least one safe person is in your life, thank them, then let them know you might be reaching out over the holidays.
Move Your Body
Nothing simmers my stress level quite like a long walk (even in the cold). Get outside. Participate in a spontaneous dance party. Get your lungs pumping and your arms flailing. Check out how Cousin Sandra does the whip and ney ney.
How You Treat Others Stays with Them Longer than the Gifts You Give
The Fitbit will break. Those gorgeous dishes you’ve admired for months will all be chipped in three years. The snow blower will be given to a neighbor when you learn you’re moving to Dallas. Gifts are fun to give and get, but no gift will ever compare to consistent and selfless love. Memories of kindness live on forever.
Lower Your Expectations
Whenever I say this I realize it sounds pessimistic. My intention is coming from the exact opposite place. When we go into a situation expecting everything to go perfectly our hope is quickly dashed at the slightest insult or disappointment. However, if we go in knowing there will be moments of awkwardness and pangs of discomfort, we may find we’re pleasantly surprised at the end of the day.
Let Go Quickly
Piggybacking off the last point, those insults and disappointments are likely to come. We’re all flawed humans with a lot on our plates and even more on our minds. We come in to family settings with fears, and secrets, jealousies, and a lot of history dragged behind us in sacks far bigger than Santa’s pack. This is true for all of us. The more we encounter one another with this sense of understanding and grace, the quicker we might be able to let the little things go.
Brainstorm Non-Explosive Topics
I dare you look up after the Thanksgiving prayer and ask everyone who they voted for. Or you could light an explosive in the middle of the table if that’s easier. Be mindful that certain topics are bound to set certain individuals off. Remember those Santa packs of fear and secrets we all dragged in? Think about who you’re with and what’s likely to slit a huge tear down the fabric of those packs. You shouldn’t feel like you need to steer clear of real conversation, only consider refraining from topics that really should come with warning labels.
Shorten Your To-Do List
Some years I’ve sent Christmas cards. Others I haven’t. No apologies or explanations. I get to what I get to. I assume the same for others and try not to get offended easily. We’re all slammed. Fight stress by deciding right now that you’ll cut three or four things off your usual to-do list. You’ll notice it won’t kill anyone and it may even save you a little of your sanity in the process.
Take Time Alone to Reflect
I’m about to tell you something that might shock you. I’m an introvert. Yep, it’s true. I’m also a learned-extrovert. But my real energy and restoration comes from time alone, moments spent in reflection, writing at my computer, and prayer. This is how I come back to myself when I’m peopled out. The holidays are a prime time to get peopled out fast. Safeguard your propensity to stress by stealing a few minutes away by yourself. To think. To plan. To remind yourself there are only twenty-four hours left with these crazy people. ;-) Who knows . . . they might be hiding out in the bathroom saying the exact same thing.