Val’s Holiday Survival Guide
—Giada De Laurentiis
Good advice Giada….
Regardless of which holidays you celebrate at this time of year (or if you celebrate none in particular), it’s hard not to get swept up in the gatherings, parties, and other seasonal goings-on during the final months of the year. Personal and social events require more of our attention. Professional obligations (especially “end of the calendar year” deadlines) demand our time as well. And where the personal and the professional overlap (as in office parties and after-work socializing), that’s a space fraught with peril!
Fortunately, it’s possible to survive—and even enjoy!—the holidays without losing your mind, your health, your reputation, or your bank account.
Val’s Holiday Survival Guide
Make “balance and moderation” your mantra.
This applies to shopping, partying, and anything else that you could possibly do to excess. It’s easy to spend way too much time on Amazon looking for the perfect gifts for everyone you know—and then spending way too much money on those gifts. Similarly, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment at a party and end up drinking much more than you should.
If you don’t want to experience any post-holiday hangovers (either in your back account or in your head), then rein in the spending and the alcohol consumption. For your gift-giving, come up with a realistic spending budget and stick to it. Don’t get tempted by “too good to pass up” sales, and don’t get led astray by any sense of one-upmanship.
And for your partying, well, use your common sense, especially for office parties or other gatherings.
A reputation as the drunk who dances on tables while wearing a lampshade could damage your relationships with your colleagues and superiors—and possibly even torpedo your career.
Spend time with your family—and focus on the positives.
Perhaps more than at any other time of year, families come together during the holiday season. Many of these gatherings are happy reunions at which everyone gets along swimmingly. But not all families are harmonious. And more often than not, for most people these family gatherings involve some degree of interpersonal conflict and stress.
The old saying “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family” rings especially true for anyone who has to spend time with difficult relatives.
Maybe it’s political differences that drive a wedge between you and your cousin. Maybe your uncle engages in too much mean-spirited gossip at the dinner table. Maybe your sister is a chronic interrupter. Odds are good that your family includes at least one person who drives you nuts.
Whatever it is that your family member does that irritates you, try not to let it weigh you down: recognize your annoyance, then let it it go. At these family gatherings (especially those that involve people you rarely see), focus on the positive aspects of togetherness. If someone is being a jerk, sometimes the best way to deal with it is to ignore the jerkiness and change the subject.
Take care of yourself.
That said, there’s a difference between “letting go” and “letting yourself get stomped on.” You don’t have to win every argument, and your ego can take a few hits in the name of preserving the family peace. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. Family togetherness is important, and when it comes to bad behavior family members usually get more of a pass than friends. But if someone (whether a relative or a friend) is being particularly nasty and abusive, you don’t have to include him or her in your life. There are limits—for everyone.
While we’re on the subject of self-care, don’t forget to get plenty of exercise and sleep, too! The holiday season is known as a time for excess, and many people let their usual routines slide a little bit. If you’re one of those people, try not to let your routines slide too much, because if you do you may have a hard time getting back onto your usual schedule once the holidays end and everything goes back to “normal” time.
If you can’t find time for your usual workout, find a way to do at least some movement.
For example, a walk around the block will get you out of your chair (and can help you feel a bit more energized if you stayed out too late at a holiday party the night before). And if you’re spending the holidays with family, see if you can get everyone to take a walk with you for some “family togetherness time” (or even better, go for a walk on your own to help calm your nerves!)!
One more thing: breathe. When you start to feel overwhelmed (by your to-do list, by your family, by your social calendar, by whatever), stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, then let it out slowly—and repeat until you feel calmer. If you have time for a daily five-minute meditation break (either at a regular time each day or just when the stress level gets too high), even better. But at the very least, take a minute or so to focus on your breath and take your mind off everything else.
Prepare for travel stress.
With millions of people hopping into cars, trains, and planes to visit their families during the holidays, travel during this time of year can be especially stressful. If possible, travel during non-peak times to avoid the heaviest crowds. Whether or not you’re able to do that, though, be ready for delays. Expect the trip through airport security to take a long time; be ready to spend more time waiting for your Lyft or taxi to pick you up and get you to your destination; and anticipate more-sluggish-than-usual traffic around airports, train stations, and high-population areas. If you expect to be delayed (and plan accordingly), then you won’t be late when those delays happen—and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when they don’t.
Just so NO – prioritize your commitments.
This is something that everyone should strive to do all year, actually. When you’re overcommitted at work, for example, it’s hard to do the best job you can. When you’re overcommitted in your personal life, you are likely to end up mentally and physically exhausted.
You don’t have to do everything. It’s okay to say “no.” There are some nuances to this in the office, of course. For example, if your boss asks you to do something, think carefully—about your job responsibilities, your career goals, and your advancement prospects—before turning down an invitation to take on a project.
But as far as social engagements go, there’s no need to accept every invitation that comes your way. If you don’t really want to attend a work-related social event (such as after-work happy hour or the company’s offsite holiday party) that’s officially optional but is actually quasi-obligatory, so stop by just long enough to make sure you’re seen by the “important” folks (and don’t forget to have preplanned reason for your early departure, in case anyone tries to persuade you to stay).
If isn’t a factor, then the decision to attend (or not) an event is completely up to you.
Time and energy are in short supply, especially during the hectic holiday season. So make plans and accept invitations that involve people and events that are positively meaningful to you.
Pause and reflect.
Although the holidays and year-end are a crazy time of year, it is a great time to pause and reflect on all the good that has happened over the past year. Rarely is life easy, but it is fun in the long-run. As we enter the holiday fray full-time, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series:
“Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures.”
And if all that fails, I suggest having a cocktail…
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