While the holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of year, sometimes it seems like as soon as Halloween is over life becomes a sprint. From the pre-Thanksgiving Friendsgiving events, all the way up until the post-Christmas sales and New Year’s planning, sometimes it feels like we can’t catch a break from the holiday stress during this busy time of year. But you don’t have to let the stress get to you. Here are some tips on how to make the holidays as happy as they’re supposed to be.
While I’m all about the travel deals, at this point it’s becoming a bit late to make travel plans if you haven’t done so already. But booking your itinerary is just half of the battle. Whether you’re going by train, plane, bus, or car, things are likely to be a bit more hectic than they would be on other days of the year. New Year’s Eve, Christmas, and the day before Thanksgiving all fall into the top 10 busiest travel days of the year.
When you’re packing, try to keep it to the essentials. I am the biggest culprit of over packing, but I try to remind myself that there is absolutely no reason I will need to bring three different styles of sneakers and another two pairs of dress shoes to my mom’s home for a four-day trip. You’ll thank yourself while you’re lugging the bag to the car or station. But do think about packing what will make the trip a bit more enjoyable—perhaps a favorite bath product or basic supplies for a spa-like experience at home if you’ll be able to escape for a bit once you’ve completed the journey.
If you’re headed to the airport, train, or bus station, you already know that you’re obviously going to need some extra time. But maybe add an even bit more extra time to collect your thoughts and mentally prepare at home before you go. Do some yoga or try some meditation techniques. Perhaps even just with an app—Headspace and Smiling Mind are the two top-rated mindfulness apps on Psychology Today, both of which are free!
This should get you into a better mood when you get to the station, but the massive crowds of frantic travelers are likely to be enough to set you over the edge. My favorite way to deal with this is with music—at least that way you can help to tune out the surrounding sounds even if you can’t escape the visuals. Maybe choose something upbeat, which will get you moving quickly through the crowds and make you feel like you’re at a nightclub instead of say, Newark Airport. Or if you prefer to distance yourself from the crowd around you, try choosing some more natural or soothing music to help you forget about how crazy the world is around you. The station and people around you only have as much control over your emotions as you allow them to. Keep the music going as you start your journey to make you feel more at ease.
You might be dreading meeting up with that awkward uncle, excited to see your mom, and also apprehensive of what your aunt will want to put pressure on you about during this visit. There may be no clear way to avoid this, but there are some ways you can help to steer the conversation in the right direction. Come prepared to talk about changes or exciting things that have happened in your life, and ask others what they’ve been up to. This could help to avoid the awkward questions that otherwise inevitably arise…
If you’re visiting from out of town and have an extended stay with the fam, it can end up going lots of different ways. Boring, contentious, or heated are just a few of the feelings I’ve experienced by the time the Thanksgiving weekend wraps up. Think about ways to spend time together that everyone will enjoy and that will also prevent any more prying questions from arising even after the holiday get-together. Groupon Local, Living Social, and Yipit are some of my faves to look for ideas if you need inspiration. I promise, there will be something that you can get enough people on board too, regardless of how little or how much time you’re looking to spend with them.
I promise it will all get done! We’ve already given you some ideas for the hardest to buy for men on your list. If you’re still struggling with ideas, I like to think about ways to give an experience rather than a material gift. A dinner at a place someone normally wouldn’t go to, a Groupon experience, or even a mini getaway. Your loved ones will remember these things a lot more than that tie you bought, and you’ll be able to skip the unnecessary time spent perusing the ties at the overcrowded holiday department store.
And you might want to think twice about Black Friday. Lots of times the deals are overrated—I’ve gone on a crazy all night binge before and end up buying things not based on such a good sale, but rather the pressure of already being out at the store at 3 AM. Even Business Insider agrees!
Think about setting aside some time for yourself, or maybe use the time on Black Friday to visit the spa instead—with all the sales, a spa visit is likely to be on sale too! This could even be a way of getting your mom and gossiping aunt out of the house so that they have less time to ask those prying personal questions while hanging around at home.
Be Mindful of Mindfulness
The holidays can be stressful, and you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about how to make others happy. From finding the perfect gift for everyone to making sure you spend enough time with the in-laws, there will be a lot on your mind. But don’t forget to think about yourself! If you haven’t already, download a sleep monitoring app like my fave, Pillow. If you’re not sleeping well, the rest of your daily functions will be impacted. Not caring for yourself will make it much harder to get into the holiday spirit. You’ve got to be there for yourself before you can be for others!