Silent night? Yeah right. With parties to attend, family members to shop for, and endless to-do lists that never seem to get done, it’s all too easy to feel more frazzled than festive. Stressing out over the same things each year is basically a holiday tradition. This year, stop the madness before it takes over. We reached out to experts for brilliantly simple ways to prevent your annual meltdown moments.
Holiday Card Confusion
If you want to go the old-fashioned route and send holiday greetings via snail mail, but don’t have everyone’s current address, you can use e-card technology to your advantage.
Blowing Your Budget on Gifts
If you can’t afford to get everyone Christmas presents this year, then don’t get everyone Christmas presents this year. The key is to set ground rules and expectations, says Kelley Keehn, a financial expert and author of The Woman’s Guide to Money. "There’s no shame in suggesting to your friends that you all forego gifts in favor of treating yourselves to a fun dinner out," says Keehn. The same goes for family: Instead of buying presents for all the nieces and nephews, join forces with your siblings to be in charge of stocking duty or splitting the cost of one big present, instead of five more toys that they may already have.
Attending Every Single Holiday Party
It’s all right to skip a few non-essential events (read: not your office holiday party), says Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., a therapist in private practice in Manhattan. "Think of holiday parties like cookies. It’s tempting to eat the whole batch, but you’re better off in the long run just having a few." Sort the invites by asking yourself why you want to go. If it’s to catch up with friends or family, go forth and mingle. But if it’s because you would feel guilty declining, are hoping to meet a man, or just plain old FOMO (fear of missing out), then it’s fine to send your regrets – and not be regretful at all.
So you hit the eggnog a little hard. That doesn’t mean you’ll instantly gain 10 pounds or your favorite little black dress won’t fit once New Years rolls around. "Average weekly caloric intake matters most," says Dian Griesel, Ph.D., co-author of TurboCharged: Accelerate Your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust. Griesel says not to think of an indulgence as a major mishap, but rather as a dietary detour. "The trick is to find ways to compensate by lightening calorie intake and upping exercise on days when there aren’t parties," she advises. For instance, make a rule to not eat at work. Look forward to – and indulge in! – your favorites and special treats like mom’s apple pie; don’t waste empty calories on store bought red and green cookies getting stale near the water cooler.
Family Guilt Trips
Is an awkward conversation about your relationship or childbearing status just as much a tradition as tree trimming or turkey roasting? That’s actually good news, says Carmichael. Why? "Since it won’t catch you off guard, you can pre-plan how you’ll handle the interaction," she says. Knowing you have a plan will decrease the anticipatory stress. Try the broken record technique: "No matter how many times you’re asked a question, like when you’ll have a baby, just smile and say the same thing." Lines like, "I’ll let you know as soon as I know," or, "My, you have a lot of questions," work on two fronts. The nagging party will finally get the hint that they won’t get any news from you, and you’ll avoid having to go through a difficult or emotional explanation.