Laurie is on vacation, so this is my version of our annual list. We’ve been putting up versions of this post since 2006. The suggestions here are (mostly) for folks who celebrate the upcoming holidays in some way, and are fortunate enough to have people and resources to celebrate with; if that’s not you, skip to the bottom. If that is you, then even if your family are your favorite people and you look forward all year to the holidays, you still may find useful hints here.
1 – You have a right to enjoy things in your own way. To the extent possible, do as much or as little holiday stuff as you want; it’s supposed to be a celebration, not an obligation.
2 – Make sure you spend time with people who know you’re awesome. If you have to be with toxic people, remind yourself three times (out loud) in your last alone moments before seeing them that they are toxic and you are doing this against your will. As soon as you can get away from them, do something really nice for yourself. (If they are abusive, and you are still stuck with them, here’s some excellent advice.)
3 – Eat what you enjoy. Corollary: don’t eat what you don’t enjoy. Desserts are not sinful, they’re just desserts. Making people feel bad about themselves is sinful. Relatives who push you to eat (or not to eat) may want to be in charge of your choices, but you don’t have to let them take over. If you currently struggle with eating disorders, or have a history with them, this may help.
4 – Wear what you think you look terrific in; if you don’t think you ever look terrific (we disagree) wear something that makes you feel comfortable, with colors or textures you like. Accept compliments and ignore digs about your clothes.
5 – Plan your responses to inevitable comments beforehand. If you have family members who don’t share your politics, you do not have to put up with racist, Islamophobic, anti-science, or other hateful comments. Make a plan in advance: you can decide if you want to actively disagree with them (have your facts ready), if you want to cut off the conversation with “We disagree, and I’m not willing to discuss it here,” or if you want to just walk away. Or keep all three in your toolbox and use the one that feels best in the moment. Make a promise to yourself in advance that you’ll engage or not engage as you want. Whatever you do, don’t spend too much energy on those ideas.
6 – Not spending too much energy applies to the the personal digs too. For example, if you know that your brother is going to tell you, “for your own good,” how you’ve made a bad life decision, practice saying, “I appreciate your concern. Excuse me, I really want to catch up with Aunt Meg.”
6 – If you enjoy time with kids, they can be a great way to escape from the adult toxicity. If kids drive you crazy, keep your distance when you can, and try to keep your patience otherwise: they didn’t overstimulate themselves with sugar and toys.
7 – If you have enough to give to someone who has less, it often really helps when you’re feeling attacked. If you know someone who is having a crappy holiday, even — maybe especially — if you are too, consider taking a moment to do something for them (a quick text, a social media hello) that they will enjoy.
8 – If you hate the holidays, or they make you sad, you are not the least bit alone. Participate as little as possible. They’ll be over soon. If you’re wishing you had someone (someone particular or folks in general) to spend the holidays with, treat yourself with special care. If you’re a volunteering type, that can work, but so can staying at home and taking a bubble bath.
9 – Be effusive about every gift you get; then be discreetly rude about the awful ones later to your friends. If they’re really awful, throw them off a bridge in the middle of the night.
10 – If it suits you, stay away from news and social media; distract yourself with whatever light entertainment helps take your mind off things.
If these aren’t your holidays, have a great Chinese meal and enjoy the movie!
We’ll be back in the beginning of the New Year.
Photo at the top was “highly commended” by the Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards, a conservation project working with Born Free UK. I imagine the polar bear looking at your family Christmas and scratching its head.
Follow me on Twitter @spicejardebbie .