Now that Halloween is over, the festive tidal wave of Thanksgiving and Christmas is beginning to build. It might seem a bit early to be discussing the holidays, but it’s never too soon to start preparing for the emotional onslaught they bring. Your mom is already calling to guilt trip you about not spending a full week with her for Thanksgiving. You’re already starting to panic about seeing your uncle after you called him a morally bankrupt hillbilly last year.Your back is already aching at the thought of cold nights on the pullout sofa. Wondering how to handle the impending stress? What you need is a plan. A Holiday Season Emotional Bootcamp Plan, to be exact. Read on for our week-by-week tips and strategies to strengthen your stress-handling capabilities and pump you up to handle any holiday drama that comes your way. Good luck, soldier. You’ll need it.
Week #1: Get Right With You
It’s holiday season, which means it’s time to get honest with yourself. If spending Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas with your family is already giving you a peptic ulcer, you need to call the whole thing off. Your health and sanity is more important than showing up for some overcooked turkey. Book yourself a cheap ticket to South America and don’t look back. If you have it in your heart to survive the holidays with family (or even if you don’t), you want to spend the next month getting your mind and body in shape for the whole thing. The holiday season requires endurance. Here are a few things you can do to build yours up:
Tip #1: Daily meditation. Inner peace is important when dealing with stress and crazy family members. Commit to taking a few minutes a day to focus on your breathing and clear your mind from now until January 1st. We’ll say from first hand experience, it really,really helps!
Tip #2: Stock up on sleep and exercise. Pullout couches and your grandma’s pecan pie is a recipe for muscle tension, exhaustion and bloating. Mitigate the effects now by sleeping in whenever possible and dedicating yourself to workout routine you love.
Tip #3: Therapy. Now’s the time to deal with some lingering deeper issues that tend to feel even more intense during the holidays. Ain’t no shame in scheduling a few sessions now to make sure you’ve got emotional support for this stressful time of year.
Week #2: Get Right With Family
If you’ve decided to move forward with family time, it’s time to move forward with your family. You’ve probably heard the old adage: “You can’t control others, only how you react to them.” Too bad, it’s the truth. You’re going to have to work on your reactions to the family members that drive you batty. And on top of that, you’re going to have to bury any hatchets that are still lingering from last holiday season, or whenever. It might seem like too much to ask of you, but you’ll thank us come Christmas eve. Here’s what needs to happen in this phase of training:
Tip #1: Tell your sister you forgive her for that crappy thing she did a few months ago. Even if you haven’t totally forgiven her, making an effort to make peace will result in a much less awkward Turkey Day reunion.
Tip #2: Practice your “No I’m not in a relationship right now” face in the mirror. The better you can provide this answer without betraying your inner rage, the better off you’ll be. Because lord knows you’re going to get asked this. A lot.
Tip #3: Use social media to placate your awful uncle. Everyone has that one family member that it seems impossible to get along with. Now’s the time to put in a bit of back work to ensure the most harmonious family time possible. Thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever. Start making nice with your uncle now by liking his Facebook posts and following his wife on Instagram. A few likes can go a long way.
Tip #4: Buy some gifts. No matter how complex and stressful your family situation is, presents make everything a bit easier. Since Thanksgiving falls on the same day as Hanukkah this year, show up bearing dreidels and gelt and win everyone over from the get-go.
Week #3 :Spoil Yourself
Once you’ve got yourself in a better headspace and have offered the olive branch to your “problem” family members, it’s time to spoil the shit out of yourself. You’ve worked hard, you deserve a new look to go along with your new, holiday outlook. And some self-bribery wouldn’t hurt either. This holiday season, don’t scrimp on luxury or opulence. You’ll need it during those long, lonely nights on the pull-out couch.
Tip #1: Get a fabulous new haircut. Preferably in a style that’s eye-catching enough to distract nosy family members from the fact that you’re not married or pregnant yet.
Tip #2: Make a plan for something to look forward to right after the holidays. We’re big fans of the January vacation for this exact reason — no matter how crazy your December is, you can always take a deep breath and count the days until you’ll be chilling on a tropical beach with a pina colada in hand.
Tip #3: Buy yourself a hot dress and some super cozy PJs. The ideal Thanksgiving dress makes you feel beautiful and doesn’t have a ton of extra room for that 5th serving of gravy (you’ll thank us later). Make sure you have some extra luxurious PJs to slip into after dinner, whether that means a satin nightshirt or a onesie.
Tip #4: Get a massage. Turn off your phone and indulge in an hour of R&R for your tension-riddled muscles. It will change amp up your relaxation level and make you feel ready to face the (Christmas) music.
Week #4 : Prepare For The Worst
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” Too bad, that old adage is true as well. No matter how much hard work you’ve done to prepare for the holiday season, you should still expect to struggle. You’re going to have low moments. It’s important to have backup plans B,C and D at the ready. Imagine the very worst and create your battle plan accordingly. You might want to consider the following:
Tip #1: Call for backup. There might be several moments when you need someone to talk you down from the edge of insanity. Reach out to hometown friends and find out who’s going to be around if you need to make a fast escape. If there’s nowhere to escape to, have a list of friends you can call when the shit hits the fan. Tell them to be expecting an urgent call from you anytime of the day or night from November 28th until December 26.
Tip #2: Do a clean sweep of your cell phone. If you’re single (or even if you’re not), we recommend doing a clean sweep of your phone. Get rid of any bad phone numbers you might be tempted to drunk dial at the peak of loneliness or discomfort.
Tip #3: Distract yourself. Have an arsenal of positive distraction materials ready to go. You can make a “Happy Place” playlist on your iPod, stock your Kindle with self-help books, bring some knitting to do or plan to go on some majorly long bike rides in the snow. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it gives you an excuse not to engage with your sister when she’s badgering you.
Tip #4: This too shall pass. And if all that does nothing to help soothe your soul this holiday season, as hokey as it sounds, remind yourself that this too shall pass. Before you know it, it will be January and you’ll have another 11 months to chill before the next round of holiday hell.
[Photo from Shutterstock]