Family holiday season
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Family holiday season

There is something in the air. No, I don’t mean that crisp cold breeze: something else, a mix of excitement and anxiousness. You know … the feeling you get, when you are waiting for something, but not really sure is it all good. The holiday season is lurking around the corner!

It can be the most wonderful time of the year. Families gather together, enjoying different festive engagements, and exchanging gifts and it’s sometimes the only opportunity to see family members who are living farther away. But is it all good? I personally think it does come with a great amount of stress also, so how to lower the stress levels and make it enjoyable for all the members. Including the one who has to make it all happen.

What are holidays about?

With the holiday season closing in let’s acknowledge the most important thing first. The one thing we tend to forget and which will spike our stress enormously. We don’t have to reach every relative and friend. We don’t have to reach everyone involved in our lives. Now, repeat this a few times until you feel it.

Holidays are about celebrating the present moments and remembering the past. Every holiday comes with traditions so let them guide you. Let’s talk about Christmas. Many people go out of their way to visit every relative, and get gifts for every relative and friend, co-worker, and more. When we are prioritizing everyone our paths have crossed – we are neglecting ourselves.

Most people spend most of their waking time at work so holidays are the small extra days we get to be with the ones that matter to us the most. Now take a breath and think – who are they? Your co-workers? Your distant cousin who you see once a year and who always criticizes everything you do? So do we really need to go out of our way to spend time with people we don’t like – and some of them don’t like us either? There. I said it. All people, even relatives don’t like each other. And this is OK.

Where to start?

Holidays are about appreciation of the loved ones. So when you are planning out the schedule of who to visit, who to have over, and who to buy gifts and you are struggling to find time and money for everyone. Remember to choose and celebrate the ones who are by your side every day. Supporting you and loving you. Who makes you feel happy and loved? Always start with them. And if the holidays aren’t long enough to fit all the visits – it’s fine. What is more important – pleasing everyone or your sanity and well-being?

Don’t get me wrong – I ain’t saying you shouldn’t meet relatives and families. I am saying that if you physically or mentally can’t find time for everyone – prioritize. I think we had an extreme course of it by Covid – when we needed to define to closest ones and realized who we missed the most during quarantines. Start with these people and widen your circle only if it fits in your time.

Apply this thinking to every holiday and gathering whether you are a guest or a host. We have enough aspects of our lives that we are obligated to do. We need to let go of the habit of doing things just because we are expected to do them and start questioning why. And when someone declines our invitations – just accept it without the guilt trip.

Who’s in – who’s out?

When you are hosting an invent remember the same thing – firstly invite people you care about. And when you are choosing the date and time – look at what is best for you and your family. If there are several options – discuss with the most important guests for you which of these dates suit them. But stick with your dates and don’t let them move your comfort zone. This might sound egoistic because we are brainwashed to believe that if we are putting ourselves first – it’s egoistic. But you are the one hosting, you have to have time to prepare and clean up, and you have to have time to rest after the event. So the dates have to work for YOU.

One crucial element to consider when planning family and friends events is the relationships between guests. The goal should be a fun and relaxing event, so when some people are not on the best terms with each other or is just general brawler – reconsider do they need to be invited or maybe should be left out just for the greater good. But now we have a bit of a problem – we don’t want to be unpolite and let people know they are not welcomed. So what do we do about that?

Plan and delegate

We do our homework and get to know the routines and plans of our planned guests, including the not wanted ones, and plan the event at the time or place that doesn’t fit them. This way we can invite them and be pretty sure they won’t make it. Though yes, we need to be aware that people’s plans change so to might still come. So we need a plan B. The easiest prevention is to plan to seat and put these people far away and plan activities for guests that would keep them busy with something else. And delegating some hosting tasks is always in favor of allowing you to enjoy the party at least a little bit.

Another thing to relieve pressure and stress on the event day is to plan ahead. Sounds simple, but we often forget. Even I forget and so often end up rushing through cooking on the event day so by the time guests arrive I am already exhausted. And this is so easy to avoid – just plan the menu and consider the preparation time. Some foods have to be made on the day, some can be partially made and the biggest secret – is sometimes it’s better to order catering.

To-do list

So take apart your to-do list and evaluate – what can be done ahead, and what not. What has to be done by you and what can be delegated or ordered? Remember the goal of the family and friends events are to enjoy being together not to drive ourselves crazy or prepare for the episode of Masterchef.

Write down everything you need for the event or for a holiday. As soon as possible. And divide this list into three parts:

1) things needed that can be done now – we can’t bake a cake 2 weeks before, but we can buy napkins or gifts

2) things needed, which are time sensitive – mark the time! Some you can do a week before, some few days before, some only a day before

3) things needed – and have to happen ON THE DAY!

And yes – you guessed it – the shorter the list in nr 3 – the better. If you have too many things there, check them again or find a trustworthy helper to share them.

But what is Christmas about? Giving gifts? Going out of your mind and broke? No. It’s about any of it.

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