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With the Christmas holidays right around the corner, it’s that time of year again for those stressful situations some of us dread like clockwork. Despite the spirit of Christmas and the reason for the season, many people have to deal with some common holiday stressors that only come around once or twice a year (depending on what you celebrate, and with whom).
Water of the Womb, AKA Family
When families get together, it can be chaotic. Viewpoints clash, one side’s liberal while the other is conservative, politics and religion are debated fiercely over the Christmas ham.
Siblings might be holding grudges against each other that make opening presents a little awkward.
I have relations who insist upon arguing about everything, even if they’re objectively wrong on where they stand.
One of the solutions we have implemented is that, at family get-togethers, talk about politics, religion, and other controversial topics (like marijuana) are off the table. If it comes up, we gently remind the instigator that we have asked to avoid that topic.
What You Mean, You Don’t Eat No Meat?
Who doesn’t love a good Christmas dinner? My family cooks a turkey at Thanksgiving and ham at Christmas. Most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins who live in the area all descend on my parents’ house with potluck dishes, and to save my mom a headache she asks in advance what everyone is bringing.
But food can be a stressor for some.
What if you’re invited into someone’s home for Christmas dinner, but you’re a vegan and they have turkey with all the stuffing? Or it seems like every dish is made with something you can’t eat?
Like I do before going to restaurants, it’s always a good idea to get the menu ahead of time so you know what you’ll be able to eat or if you should just bring something for yourself.
I’ve seen this kind of situation happen a lot in Reddit’s JUSTNOMIL community, where daughters-in-law with allergies or food restrictions arrive at a holiday dinner where the mother-in-law has intentionally tainted every dish with something her DIL can’t eat.
While those stories are sad and on the extreme, it’s not unheard of and can cause a great deal of unnecessary holiday stress.
To the best of your ability, find out ahead of time what food will be available, and bring something along just in case you need to snack on something you like.
Crowds…Why Did it Have to Be Crowds
Ahhh. Crowds of people.
The local mall, overflowing with humans doing their last-minute Christmas shopping instead of shopping online from the safety and comfort of their homes, sipping hot cocoa in their pajamas.
What’s an introvert to do? Even if you’re an extrovert, crowds can be stressors for you too.
People slowly walking through the mall, frequently stopping to look at a kiosk or check their phones or make sure the toddler is strapped into his buggy, all without the awareness that other people exist behind and in front of them and now they’re just blocking traffic.
I’ll admit that people who do this are among my pet peeves.
Situational awareness doesn’t seem to be in large supply nowadays, but if you absolutely must go to the mall or anywhere else that has a large crowd during this holiday season, here are some tips.
Take a big, deep breath. Hold it for a few seconds. Let it out.
Did you feel that?
Some of your tension melted away, but not all of it. Remind yourself that all these other people are in the same situation as you—you’re all dealing with crowds of other humans. They’re likely thinking the same thoughts as you, wondering why people didn’t stay home as they should have.
It’s harder than it sounds to make room for grace in these big crowds of stress-inducing people.
Long lines at the cash register don’t make things any better, either. I heard about a local grocery store that had hour-long waits at the checkout the day before Thanksgiving.
Perhaps the simplest way to deal with crowds is this: don’t deal with them at all.
Don’t add to the masses of consumerist chaos when Ebates deals and Amazon exist.
O Traffic, You Monster
Regardless if you stayed home for all your holiday shopping, chances are you’ll have to hit the road or take to the skies in order to get to your final celebration destination.
Winter comes every year, and yet every year people seem to forget how to drive in the inclement weather that is not something new. Here in Washington state, people forget how to deal with hydroplaning on the rain-slicked roadways, ending up in crashes along the major highways. When it snows, macho dudes in big trucks think they’re manly enough to speed through snowy mountain roads, passing people on a two-lane highway when it’s caked with ice.
(Yes, this actually happened to me and my dad last winter while we were driving up to White Pass to ski. Some guy actually sped past us in his big truck, on a road caked with snow and ice. We were in a big-ass Chevy Suburban and barely at half the posted speed limit yet still felt a little unstable on the ice.)
Regardless of where you’re going, how long your trip will take, or how comfortable you feel driving in winter weather, please slow down! Allow extra space in front of you, even though people will inevitably squeeze into it because they “fit”. Road rage is not worth the thousands of dollars in accident damage, nor what it would do to your blood pressure.
Take a deep breath, and remember that you might be falling victim to fundamental attribution error.
And above all else, give yourself plenty of time to get wherever you’re going.
Being in a rush helps no one if you get into an accident because of it.
The Grinch Who Hates Christmas
We all know this person. It’s that one guy who’s always in a bad mood about everything, but especially the holiday season. He comes to family gatherings because someone made him come (like his wife) but he spends the entire visit making snarky comments while sipping eggnog in a corner.
Grinches like these have the potential to ruin a lot of good cheer and bring down the festive mood.
Don’t let it happen to you!
Avoid this person as much as possible without being rude. If you get sucked into a less-than-desirable conversation, have an exit strategy.
Statements like “I’m uncomfortable with this conversation” or “This is an inappropriate subject for the holiday season” are valid things to say and can throw people off balance long enough for you to escape into the safety of other conversations.
(This is a handy tip for dealing with other people too, not just the Grinch in your family.)
So there you have it. Hopefully, you’re better prepared to handle some common holiday stressors like a pro and are ready to breeze through these situations with ease, knowing you’ve got it covered.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!