The holidays are a great time to catch up with friends and family, enjoy some parties and spread some holiday cheer. They're also enormously stressful. Enjoy the holidays this year with these stress-busting tips.
Photo by Lin Pernille.
Every holiday season has its highlights — getting together with family you've missed all year, great meals, department store windows decked out with tinsel and trim — but not many people make it through the holidays without succumbing to some serious stress. For each relative you want to see there's one to avoid, every great meal has to be shopped and planned for and bedazzled department store windows beckon you in to buy those last-minute gifts. Here's a breakdown of some of the most common sources of holiday stress, followed by tips for diffusing them, whether you're playing host to your entire family or digging through your couch cushions to buy gifts.
Three Keys to Surviving the Holidays
There are three key elements to surviving the holidays without tearing your hair out:
- Plan: Planning is the greatest stress-buster of all. Don't freak out about something tomorrow that could have been planned out today.
- Delegate: Lots of things need to be done during the holiday season, but that doesn't mean you have to do it all yourself.
- Be realistic: Lower your expectations. Holidays are for spending time with friends and family, not proving you're the best tinsel slinger or turkey slicer. Expecting nothing short of perfection is a surefire way to end up stressed and swearing.
A lot of planning, a little delegation, and a dash of "Who cares? Let's open that next bottle of wine!" will go a long way towards cutting down stress before it crops up.
You might go all year without having any big bashes at your house or hosting any overnight guests. Suddenly, you're pulling out sleeping bags, dusting off china and wondering why you agreed to have everyone stay at your place. Our guides to being a perfect host in the 21st century and a perfect guest in the 21st century will help you pull off your role in style. If you'll be hosting guests unfamiliar with the area, it doesn't hurt to put an information packet together for them. Photo by Terren In Virginia.
Be Honest with Yourself About Who You Can Host
Make sure there's room at the inn. Take stock of your family and friend's holiday travel plans now so there are no surprises. If you're destined to be the host, call around now and firm up arrangements. It's better to find out in advance that both your family and your significant other's family are planning to sleep in your single guest room rather than three hours before the holiday meal. If you're the traveller this holiday, make sure to check with your host and see how hectic their holiday schedule is.
Don't be afraid to tell people that you simply don't have room for them. If your extended family doesn't mind sleeping on the floor, that's one thing. But taking on too many house guests is a recipe for bad feelings and a tense holiday. Check out sites like AirBnB and iStopOver to find larger rental accommodations for extended family or more mainstream sites like Travelocity and Expedia to find individual rooms for guests.
Don't Try to Do Everything in One Day
Spread the love. Some people make fitting in holiday visits an Olympic sport. Visiting grandma Christmas morning, Uncle Roy for brunch, your other grandma for an early dinner, and your parents' house for a late dinner might mean you see everyone on the big day, but it doesn't make for a fun or relaxing day. Don't get caught up in the idea that you have to see everyone on the actual holiday. Talk to your friends and family about spreading out visits. You'll minimise your stress in the process as well as the chance that 19 relatives end up at your house on one day. Photo by Michael Mol.
Prepare in Advance
Prep in advance to enjoy throwing parties and hosting holiday meals. The amount of fun you'll have hosting a holiday party or big holiday meal is a direct inverse of how much time you spent planning. If you don't plan things out well ahead of time the party will wreck you. Rather than frantically prepping, searing, baking and otherwise chaining yourself to the kitchen instead of enjoying your guests, pick recipes and dishes that work well for early preparation.
What kind of early prep can you do? You can make chutney, stuffing, relish, roasted vegetables and more in advance. When sitting down to plan your party, purposely limit dishes that require too much attention. If you've got more than one thing going on in the kitchen that needs anything more than periodic check-ins, you'll spend lots of time poking around at the stove and not much time enjoying your guests. Photo by tuchodi.
If you have family or close friends on hand, delegate! Nobody expects one person to take care of every detail for a party of a dozen or more. Ask for help getting dishes ready, serving drinks and more. People enjoy being useful; put Uncle Frank in charge of making sure nobody has to ask twice for a Manhattan. Photo by Lee Hochstein.
Don't neglect yourself. Navigating a holiday with relatives you're not on the best terms with is a challenge in and of itself, let alone if you've just recovered from pneumonia. It's easy to miss out on sleep, skip meals and not drink enough water when you're running to get ready for the holidays. Hopefully, if you've planned everything ahead of time, you won't be so stressed you miss lunch and drink nothing but lattes all day. Still, last minute planning can get the best of us; it's important to take care of your body. Make sure you're eating for maximum energy. Photo by Alessandro Valli.
Spend an hour or two now planning out your holiday meals, sleeping arrangements and other provisions for your guests, and you'll spend the holidays enjoying their company instead of worrying about dinner and who gets the sofa bed.