By Teresa Miller, BSW, LMSW, Finger Lakes Community Health, a non-profit organization with eight health centers and a Mobile Health Unit.
Every year the holidays arrive before we know it. And they come with so many expectations. Sparkling conversation. Family reunions. The perfect dish. The perfect gift. The perfect everything. If you’re like many of us, you put all kinds of pressure on yourself to make things, well, perfect. But that’s just not reality. Every event—from office parties to family gatherings—can be a source of stress. Just thinking about them can stress people out. Will you run into a coworker you don’t click with? Will that distant relative who makes you uncomfortable put you on the spot? So, how do you get through this busy time with your sanity? Here are a few ideas.
- Set healthy boundaries.
Start by giving yourself some grace. You can’t do everything and you can’t please everyone. Focus on the positive things and check in with yourself regularly. Make time for self-care amid the chaos. Take an hour to take a walk. Listen to some relaxing music. It’s okay to tell friends and family, “I’m going to sit this one out. I’ll see you soon.”
- Be kind. Even when others are unkind.
Let’s face it: some folks just like to stir up controversy. Even if it’s over something as silly as the dish you bring to a party. They don’t like mushrooms, olives, or cheese? Not your problem. There may be something deeper going on when someone is nitpicking. If they give you a hard time over things like food, clothing, hairstyle, or décor, just remember: it doesn’t matter. If you give them the reaction they’re looking for, they’ve won. Skip the confrontation. Just smile and move on. You can be pleasant to them and avoid a whole basket of drama you don’t want or need.
- Keep your perspective on gift giving.
Shopping for friends and loved ones can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays. When you’re part of a large, grown-up family, you don’t have to buy every adult in your extended circle a gift. Keep it to the kids. And if you’re worried about being empty-handed at a gathering where others have brought gifts for you, set expectations ahead of time about exchanging gifts. One solution: do a “White Elephant” exchange in which everyone brings one small, price-limited, weird gift and they’re handed out randomly. White Elephant gift giving for adults can be a fun alternative that takes the pressure off—and can get the whole room roaring with laughter.
- Be mindful of how alcohol can complicate things.
When alcohol is being served at gatherings, a roomful of people can escalate quickly. Drinking loosens people up, and that can both relax guests and make them more likely to behave inappropriately. You can’t control how much other people drink, but you can set your own limits ahead of time. Remember to drink plenty of water between your cocktails. Have a plan in place ahead of time to get home safely. And be respectful of the likelihood that there may be recovering alcoholics present.
- Eat what you like and keep it nutritious.
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day can be the most high-calorie time of the year. You want to enjoy all of the goodies, and that’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself. But plan ahead for those days in between big, food-filled gatherings and eat a little lighter and healthier. Keep veggies in the fridge to snack on. Better yet, be the one to bring a healthy alternative to your next party. Your friends may thank you. And you’ll know there’s something lighter to munch on while you’re there.
- Covid-19 is still a thing. Be considerate.
By now it’s clear everyone has different attitudes about Covid-19. Some people are “over it” and have resumed pre-2020 behavior without precautions. Others are still being careful, for lots of reasons. Maybe they’re especially vulnerable to illness. Or they have loved ones who are. There might even be times when you’re asked to take a Covid test before attending an event. Or to wear a mask on certain occasions. Or, you may see others masked at gatherings while you are not. Be kind to people, regardless of their personal choices.
Final thought: Keep your sense of humor.
At holiday time, you want to make lasting memories that cause you to smile, not cringe. Try to see the humor, even in people’s odd quirks. Keep checking in on yourself. Practice self-care. And have a wonderful holiday season!