Tis the season here in Chicago where everyone starts gearing up for holiday time. Whether we like it or not, it is now the time for parties, presents and loads of family time. This could be fun, and this could also be stressful. There is the pressure of buying gifts, the business around juggling your social calendar, and of course, the unique challenges of being with your family. Sadly, all of these things can bring out the worst in anyone, even those who try to have the most grace under pressure. The famous psychologist and meditation teacher, Ram Dass, once said, “If you think you are enlightened, spend a week with your family.”

Here are some tips:

1. Plan ahead. Plan your travel, plan your budget, and plan your time. If you leave everything to the last minute with the hope that things will fall into place naturally, you’ll likely be in for a rude awakening. Leaving things until the last minute will usually end up with no plans or crappy plans.

2. Communicate with your family members and friends. Particularly if you worry about details, such as where you are going and who is buying what, do yourself a favor and talk about it openly. You don’t have to leave things to a guessing game. Lastly, it is OK for you to say “no” to events or certain expectations.

3. Give yourself (and others) a break– things won’t go perfectly. Despite your best efforts, you may not remember a gift for everyone nor can you attend every party. Someone may get a cold or flu. One of the kids, or possibly your spouse, may be in a bad mood one day. Regardless of what life throws at you, let it go and try to enjoy yourself. As a wedding planner once said, “It doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be wonderful.”

4. What’s important to you?– the holiday season doesn’t last forever, so how can you make the best use of your time. Do you really want to spend days staring at your phone, scrolling through social media posts? Probably not! Take advantage of your vacation and do what sustains you and what you’ll remember fondly in the years to come.

5. Make a plan for January– Although the holiday season may come with stress, you might find yourself feeling defaulted when all the parties are over. Makes arrangements to have something to look forward to in the weeks following your festivities.

If all of these strategies fail, do not worry- your therapist will be waiting to hear about it during your next session. Have a happy holiday everyone!

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