Social connection is important to your mental and physical health, and the holidays offer many opportunities to gather with the people you care about. However, the holidays can also be a stressful time that not only taxes your energy, but also your finances and free time.
From family gatherings and office parties to school cookie swaps and religious services, the opportunities might begin to feel more like obligations, making you dread the season rather than celebrate it. But there are ways to protect your well-being, bank account and schedule now through the beginning of the new year.
5 tips to survive the holiday season
1. Ration your RSVPs. Just because you were invited does not mean you must go. Decide in advance how many events you can comfortably attend during any given week. Perhaps one evening event, plus an afternoon performance and morning religious service will be the perfect amount to fill you with holiday joy over the weekend without emptying your reserves.
It is important to graciously acknowledge every invitation you receive and let the host know whether or not you will attend. When declining an invitation, a simple “Thank you for thinking of me, but I am unable to join you” message will do.
2. Set a budget and stock up on supplies. Last-minute shopping often leads to overspending. Make your own naughty and nice list and decide in advance how much you’d like to spend on each gift. If you know you’re planning to attend a party each weekend and a few additional gatherings throughout the season, pre-purchase several small, but thoughtful, gifts for your hosts. A scented candle, bottle of your favorite wine, dishtowels with a seasonal stitch or a sweet treat you’ve made yourself should please any party planner. Finally, make sure you have ingredients on hand for easy appetizers or desserts for occasions requiring an edible contribution.
3. Shop your own seasonal styles. Unless you’ve drastically changed clothing sizes or recently “Marie Kondo-ed” your closet — a method of purging and organizing your belongings down to a few pieces — you will likely find all the outfit options you need to get through your holiday outings in your very own wardrobe. While the urge to splurge may be strong, take the time to review the attire required for each of the events you’ll be attending. Pull out a few outfits — complete with shoes and accessories that can easily be swapped — to suit a variety of situations and worn at least once (or more) to the season’s shindigs.
4. Suggest a sign. If you plan to attend an event with a friend or partner, discuss a saying or sign to indicate when you’re ready to leave, need help getting out of an awkward conversation or simply would appreciate having someone by your side. This can be as simple as a slyly raised eyebrow, cleared throat or statement such as “What a wonderful evening this has been!” to signal you’re ready for assistance or steps away from grabbing your coat, offering your thanks and heading out the door.
5. Defend your downtime. “It’s OK to decline” should be your new mantra. No matter how much of an extrovert you may be, we all need time to rest and recharge. Check in with yourself before agreeing to yet another event during the holidays. Do you have the time, energy or finances for another activity? Do you truly want to go or simply don’t want to disappoint someone else by not going? Will going to this event alter your ability to attend, enjoy or afford another already on your calendar?
Sometimes, staying in and making a simple meal, watching a sappy show or snuggling by a fire with someone you love — or by yourself — is the perfect way to celebrate the season.