The holidays are meant to be filled with joyous occasions and quality time spent with family we may not get to see that frequently during the remainder of the year. Spending time exchanging gifts, preparing meals, and talking for hours with siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins sounds like a fantastic way to spend a few days or even weeks.
It turns out, though, that it doesn’t take long for a multitude of family members sharing the same living quarters to start getting on each other’s nerves. Here’s what I’ve learned about finding ways to enjoy quality family time during the holidays.
Go With the Flow. I love holiday parties and always want my meals to turn out flawlessly, with magazine-worthy table settings, great conversation, and delicious food. But when someone, inevitably, forgets to bring their assigned dish or the turkey is a bit too dry, my love for the season quickly diminishes. I’ve learned that when my perfectionism threatens to take over it’s best to take a deep breath, relax, and remind myself that these little things don’t matter; quality time with loved ones does.
Don’t Overcommit. Placing too many responsibilities on myself – and having unrealistic expectations – can lead to anxiety and frustration. I’m a worrier and I often have insomnia because I can’t stop thinking about all the things left to do, especially around the holidays. Over the years, I’ve learned to limit the number of things I say “yes” to. For example, while I really do enjoy hosting my family, last year I decided one holiday was enough. And you know what? When I said we couldn’t host Christmas lunch at my house, my sister was more than happy to offer her home up for everyone.
Try to Keep the Little Ones on a Consistent Schedule. Kids naturally go bonkers around the holidays. Time off from school, tons of play time with their favorite cousins, late nights, and general excitement can wreak havoc on the demeanor of kids who are generally well behaved. This, of course, makes every adult in the vicinity on edge and tensions start to rise. My husband and I have learned that keeping our kids on a regular schedule that’s as close to normal as possible helps make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.
Get Some Exercise. Houseguests and a mile-long to-do list often means that something’s got to give, and let’s face it: my diet is usually the first thing out the window. But I’m careful not to put my workout routine on the chopping block. A good workout is a definite mood booster and leaves me much more tolerant of family stressors.
Be Prepared for the Usual Quirks from Family. Personalities don’t usually change that drastically over time. Thus, I know that the cousin who drank a little too much at last year’s Christmas lunch will probably do so again this year. And though I love her, I know my mom will ask me if the green beans have enough salt about a million times. I can’t change these quirks so I try to enjoy them and think of them as part of the holiday tradition. But most importantly, I’m careful not to take it personally. I’ve found that expecting the same behaviors from family members and making a conscious decision to let these annoyances roll off my back helps me avoid stress.
Don’t Neglect Four-legged Family Members. We love our pets, but unfortunately, they sometimes get overlooked when it comes to planning for the holidays. For example, when preparing for houseguests, I don’t always take time to consider how our dog will feel about having these new bodies around. After some house guest-induced bad behavior from our dog last year, this season we’ve decided to implement some new rules. First, I’ve made our dog’s bed area off limits to guests so that he’ll have a place to get some peace and quiet. Second, I’m asking our house guests to leave their own pets at home.
Unfortunately, the week after Christmas we’ll have to leave our little guy behind. Staying in a kennel is stressful for him because he just isn’t used to being in that kind of environment. The rise of the sharing economy has made it easier for animal lovers to open their doors as pet sitters. So, we’re considering that homier (and cheaper!) alternative this year. We’re hoping being with a one-on-one caregiver will help him feel loved while we’re away.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ditch Tradition in Favor of Something New. The same holiday routines can be a source of comfort, but they’re also a cause of stress. Traditions are great as long as they don’t feel like obligations. I’ve learned to recognize when a tradition has grown stale. My family used to get dressed up and go to a friend’s Christmas Eve party each year. However, a couple of years ago my son was sick so we had to stay home. Rather than throwing on our Sunday Best, we vegged out in our PJs watching “Home Alone.” And so a new tradition was born!
Spending time with family should be enjoyable and relaxing, but too often circumstances arise that make the holidays stressful for one or more family members. With a little pre-planning and a flexible attitude, the holidays can evoke pleasant memories rather than spike one’s blood pressure.
Vee Cecil is a Kentucky born and bred wellness coach and personal trainer. She is passionate about all things health-related and keeping others informed on personal wellbeing. She regularly shares her findings on wellness on her recently-launched blog.