As we grow closer to the end of 2017, the holiday season is yet again upon us. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, New Year’s…and who knows what else, will fly by lightning quick and soon you’ll be wondering what happened to your days. Do you look forward to this time of year? Or do you dread it? Are you someone who doesn’t celebrate any of them or possibly all of them? One?
If you dread this time of year, you aren’t alone. Shopping areas are super crowded and busy, especially the times that most people are off: evenings and weekends. Everyone seems to have a bad attitude or in a hurry or both. A ridiculous amount of foods, both healthy and mostly not, seem to be everywhere. Family arguments and issues seem to be front and center, causing friction and headaches. Schedules are jam-packed with parties, dinners, last minute deadlines, and other various activities. To do lists are long and days are short. Weather is unpredictable and tension is high. Charitable organizations are laying guilt trips on you at every turn to help those less fortunate than you. Thieves are out in droves, breaking into cars, churches and stealing packages off porches. Depression seems to be rampant this time of year too. Any of this sound familiar?
I’m not trying to be a “Scrooge” by bringing all this up. I’m hoping to help with some tips for how to survive the holiday season, whether you are immersed in it or trying to avoid it like the plague. I’ve tried to divide it by categories below. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like some friendly, non-expert advice on during this holiday season. 🙂
- Family – Love ’em or not, they are your relatives. Does that mean you should let them drive you bonkers? Maybe, maybe not. If you love your family and generally get along with them at other times of the year, then this should be a fun time to spend time together. If these are people that the only things you seem to have in common is some DNA and physical characteristics, then limit your interactions with them or spend time with friends instead. Pick your battles and don’t let others push your buttons! If you know Aunt Busybody drives you crazy by interrogating you about your life, limit the time you spend with her at family functions, have an “escape” plan, find snappy comebacks to her questions if you like, or if you are not comfortable with that, then just try to take deep breaths and remember that it’s only a brief period of time and this too shall pass. Try to avoid topics you know upset people and if unsure of how to answer what is being asked or said, suddenly excuse yourself to the bathroom. If you don’t have family to spend the holidays with or maybe they are too far away or you won’t be able to see them for some other reason, figure out if this upsets or depresses you to the point that you just can’t stand it. Then try to plan a time to call or face-time or Skype or whatever with them so that you can spend some time with them. Volunteer to keep busy or maybe find some friends or coworkers who are in the same boat and maybe plan a luncheon out or dinner with them. Whatever you do, do NOT buy into the media hype that everyone except you is with their loved ones on the holiday, having the perfect food and wonderful time, singing around the piano with a roaring fire in the fireplace. It’s not true. You aren’t alone and there’s no such thing as the “perfect” holiday most of the time.
- Gifts and charity donations – Giving should always come from the heart, not the retail industry telling you that you have to give to someone. If you don’t want to get anyone a present and don’t want to give during the holiday season, then don’t. Give when you want to, what you want to, to whom you want to. The other side of that is not to be greedy in what you want or receive. Be gracious and thankful that someone thought of you when you are given anything, even if you don’t end up using it or keeping it. If the holiday season is only about material things for you, you will end up with a very empty life and heart. Also, one big thing: DO NOT spend more than you can afford! I’m amazed at people in the past griping at how much they spent on Christmas presents, etc, and how long it took them to pay it off! There are plenty of ways to give and to stay within your means/budget.
- Food and diet – Maybe you’re like me and are trying to watch your weight and this time of year, the temptation is just crazy hard to resist. For me, it’s really just being mindful and paying attention that keeps me on track. If there are tons of snacks in the break room at work, don’t go in there if you don’t have to! Keep up your water intake as it will keep you from over eating. Pay attention to if you’re actually hungry or not before pigging out on food just because it’s there. Before you pile your plate high at gatherings, choose your selections carefully. Ask yourself: Do I really like this food or am I getting it because it’s there? Am I really that hungry? Start with the veggies and proteins that are good for you and then if you just have to have some pie, have a small slice. But stop when you are full! Don’t over stuff yourself. Make a plan for how you will handle certain food situations if you know they are coming. And please don’t beat yourself up for not doing as well as you wanted or planned. You will find that unless you are eating non-stop junk for the entire month, most of the damage will be minimal. Just get up if you fall, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.
- Depression – If you are someone who gets depressed at this time of the year, try to figure out what about it depresses you and then try to remove or counteract the depressing elements. No one to celebrate with? Find a place to volunteer. Nursing homes would be great because there are a lot of older people who don’t have anyone to spend time with either, who are lonely or depressed and you can brighten their day just by spending a little time with them. If it’s gloomy weather, try having bright lights in your home or go on vacation to some place more tropical or sunny or whatever will work better for you. If you can’t seem to shake it, are thinking of doing something drastic, or just need to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Seasons change and pass, life does have its ups and downs. If you need help, you aren’t alone and there is help out there to be found. Please don’t hesitate to look for it if you need it. If you know someone who is depressed, try to be there for them. Don’t tell them to ‘just cheer up’ or berate them for being a ‘party pooper’. Offer to listen, try to provide a distraction, or offer to help them find professional help. Depression is real, sometimes it’s not ‘just a case of the blues’ and can be very serious. Try to be kind and understanding. I know it can be hard to do.
- Crime and attitudes – As I brought up before, there will be a lot of people out there with bad attitudes and no-good on their minds. Try to be patient with people who work in the grocery stores and retail and fellow shoppers. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you aren’t handicapped, park a little farther away and walk a little. It will do you some good. If the lines are long, be patient or go at a time when it’s not as busy, especially if it’s a store open 24 hours. If you waited until Christmas Eve day to go to Walmart, do NOT take it out on the employees because they are exhausted and paid barely above minimum wage. I have worked two Christmas seasons in retail and I have never been so tired and so happy to have a little counter between me and everyone else in my life. If someone cuts you off or doesn’t return your greeting or smile, try to give them the benefit of the doubt that they just aren’t thinking or their mind is on something else. Maybe they had bad news given to them recently or maybe they really are just jerks. But maybe not and they may end up being a good friend one day. As for criminal activity, if you usually have packages delivered and left outside of your house, try to have them delivered somewhere you can pick them up instead. Amazon lockers, the post office, UPS stores, a trusted neighbor or relative that’s home during the day. Do not leave wrapped packages in sight in your car. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t flash a bunch of cash around. If, heaven forbid, you are held up, don’t fight for material things. They can be replaced. You can’t. If you don’t celebrate holidays and someone wishes you a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Holidays”, don’t be an a*hole and berate them. Just say thank you and move on. It may irk you a little but most people mean well are trying to be nice or polite.
Those were the five big topics that I could think of to try to address. I hope I was able to be a little help to you. Most of the advice was probably things you’ve heard before but human beings seem to need reminders so I hope you will benefit from them. If this time of year is always awesome for you, then I’m happy for you and maybe you could take a few minutes to make it a little brighter for someone who maybe isn’t having such a great holiday season. Be kind to each other, y’all!