Three tips for surviving the holidays

Skip the Small Talk How to survive the holidays

Whether you’re spending the holidays with family, with friends, or with yourself this year, your celebrations probably won’t live up to the impossibly wholesome fireside gatherings that the media depicts as the norm. Well, the good news is that no matter how many pictures of glistening ham you see on Instagram, nobody else’s holiday is going to be perfect, either. So, we’ve come up with some tips for making the most out of your holidays, whatever they look like.

  1. Mindful acceptance. Accept reality as it happens and challenge yourself to let go of preconceived notions of how things are “supposed” to go. One way to do this is to try finishing this sentence: “Given this reality, I’m going to…” For example, if you miss your flight, you might think, “Okay, I missed my flight. Given this reality, I’m going to take three deep breaths even though it feels like I don’t have time for them, I’ll book another flight on my phone, I’ll text my mom to let her know I’ll be late, and then I’ll grab a sandwich if I have time.”

  2. Self-care. If you’re not familiar with the term, it may sound obvious-- of course you need to take care of yourself! And if you’re familiar with the term, you may associate it with bubble baths, candles, and elaborate home-cooked meals just for yourself. In reality, self-care is about working your way up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs over and over again. It entails lots of less-than-glamorous things like grabbing a snack when you’re peckish and ducking out of a party to make sure you get enough sleep. All of that can be hard if you’re spending a lot of hours around other people; you’ll probably have to advocate for your needs at some point since you won’t all have the exact same needs at the exact same time. So, prioritize your needs, even if others try to talk you out of it. You are entitled to eat when you’re hungry and get enough sleep, even if it’s inconvenient for other people; making sure your basic needs are met is a requirement for being present with others.

    Likewise, if you are spending the holidays by yourself, it can be easy to fall into a self-care slump and take worse care of yourself than you would if you were around others. Make it a point to prioritize your well-being this holiday. You are worthwhile and deserving of care even when nobody else is around to benefit from it second-hand. Don’t forget to feed yourself regularly, get enough sleep, and do some things that you enjoy.

  3. Boundaries. This one isn’t just for those of us spending time with others this holiday! If you’re by yourself, some routines and structure to your days can make a huge difference in how you feel. See if you can set some guidelines for yourself that you think would be useful, whether that’s “try to get thirty minutes of outdoor exercise every day” or “get in bed by 1 AM every day, and put all electronics away at 1:30 AM.”

    Boundaries are also essential for surviving extended interactions with other people, and they have the added benefit of helping you feel more connected to others. Setting boundaries with others over the holidays might entail phrases like, “I have to get going-- thanks for having me!” and then sticking to it when your uncle protests, “But it’s so early, and we never get to see you!” Setting boundaries may also look like telling your mom, “I’d like a few hours to myself tomorrow afternoon so that I can really be present with you when we hang out tomorrow night.”

    If you’re new to setting boundaries, thinking in advance about what sort of boundaries you might need to set in a given social situation and thinking about how you might phrase them can be helpful. For instance, before you go to a party, you might anticipate that your cousin will try to get you to drink more than you’re comfortable with, and you might consider responding with a firm, “No thanks,” as many times as it takes for him to back off. It may feel strange at first, especially if you have not set boundaries with family or friends in the past, but your sense of wellbeing is worth it.

    However you’re celebrating or not celebrating the holidays, mindfully accepting any unexpected circumstances, focusing on self-care, and setting boundaries can help you weather any challenges that arise. Take good care of yourselves out there!