How to Give Yourself an Optimal Holiday

How to Give Yourself an Optimal Holiday

I’m in it, you’re probably in it—the mad rush to get everything done before the holidays!

I know that when I’m jumping from one task to another in an effort to meet all of my deadlines and create the “perfect” holiday event for my family, much of the joy of the season fades under the weight of my feeling overwhelmed. Although I get the necessary things done, and the family event I put on or participate in is “reasonably perfect,” I still find myself stressed, depleted and numb.

Over the years, I’ve found ways to counter this, but my most effective method is to spend some time thinking over what I really want to get out of the holidays, and how I want to be in relation to them. This “pre-planning” is in addition to arranging the menus and activities—Pre-planning how you will be during your upcoming holiday has the potential to give you what you really want from your gatherings, and it can possibly set the stage for changes in the dynamics of your relationships. Try this two-step plan for your internal well being, so you can bring your best self to the gatherings!


  • Take a half hour, where you can sit quietly and look over your upcoming events. For me that includes traveling to my parents’ house, being with my parents and sisters, visiting a few high school friends, the trip home, and, finally, reintegrating back into my life.


If I’m stressed, I look at what I can let go of – what doesn’t HAVE to get done? What is a simpler way of doing the most time-consuming things? For example, deciding to give everyone books as gifts saved me a lot of headache. My shortcut was to call library information and ask them what books they’d recommend for the different people and their interests. Then when I went to the bookstore, or shopped online, the process was very streamlined.

For the trip, in addition to figuring out your logistics, think about what you want to get out of the various parts of your trip. For my flight, I generally want two things: to be open to meeting interesting new people on the flight and to enjoy reading time that I seldom get at home. Having those goals in mind causes me to dress a bit differently, to be more aware of the people around me, and make more effort to make eye contact and smile at people around me before opening my book.


Pre-plan how you will celebrate the holidays


For the time at my parents’ house, I think about each person who will be there and how I want that relationship to go. For those of you in dysfunctional families, perhaps your unconscious goal is to just avoid interacting as much as possible, but there are also other options. Each day that you are together you could decide to look for one good thing about each person that you hadn’t previously realized. The goal of learning something new about people you’ve known for ages causes you to approach them with a curious outlook which they will likely find less judgmental and more receptive. For those of you who take this on, I’d love to hear stories of how it worked for you.

For meeting with my friends, I also think about what I want to get out of the encounter in addition to just hanging out and having a good time. Do I want to get closer to them? If so, what questions can I ask that will move the relationship in that direction? I’m not so good at thinking of those questions on the spot, so it’s really helpful when I think of them ahead of time. Do I want to get a certain kind of support from them? Often I have that desire, but it’s unconscious, and so I sometimes end up not asking for it, or not even thinking to ask. By recognizing what I want ahead of time, I can decide to ask for the support I would like.

  1. Pre-plan how you will take care of yourself physically. For me, this includes deciding ahead of time how I will approach eating, drinking and exercise while with my family. This enables me to feel much better—not only about myself as a person—but also to feel much better physically.

Returning home, I’m often exhausted and a bit disoriented. My mindset tells me to get up the next day and dive back into work, so I have to consciously choose to go about my re-entry in a specific way that makes it smoother. A mentor once told me to always give myself a full day to get back into the swing of my life before diving back into my business. This isn’t always possible, but when I can take that day off, it makes a huge difference!

When I used to host extended-family Christmases at my house, once everyone left I’d declare a “Sloth Day.” Our only allowed task would be to choose the videos we’d watch. Everyone would assemble their own meals from the leftovers. We’d spend the day in pajamas and follow the day’s only rule which was NO WORK ALLOWED!

Do you have tips to make the holidays less stressful? Please share in the comments!

Happy Holidays!

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