Home for the Holidays

Real talk: Although most of us start the holiday season with the best of intentions, being with family can sometimes result in more stress than cheer. Expectations can be high for the holidays, and the heightened emotions that come along with raised expectations can make for a less-than-festive outcome if (re: WHEN) reality falls short from those plans.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to make the holidays a time of joy and help you end 2015 with happy memories.

1. Remember to only take on what you can handle. Don’t over schedule yourself, whether that means saying no to hosting an event with more people than you can comfortably (or sanely) accommodate or not committing to attend too many events during the jam-packed season. Consider splitting the holiday into two smaller events on two separate days if you find a single day has a tendency to get too full.

2. Start a new tradition with your family. This will give everyone something to look forward to from year to year, and can help align expectations – at least when it comes to that specific tradition. Whether it’s wearing matching Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve, including a special item on a menu for a certain meal, or always enjoying a specific Christmas movie together, the tradition will be something everyone can get excited to experience together.

3. Stick to at least one part of your normal routine. Whether you’re hosting at your home or playing the role of guest during the holidays, chances are your routine looks quite different than it normally would. Abandoning this schedule – especially for those of us type A folks (points finger at self) – can result in unsettled feelings. To avoid those out-of-control emotions, pick one part of your routine to keep intact during the holidays, whether it’s going on a daily run or having some quiet time while you drink coffee and journal in the morning. That way, your loved ones will be getting the best version of you!

4. Develop a mantra for the holiday season. If you tend to be in situations that make you feel vulnerable over the holidays, consider coming up with a saying you can repeat to yourself to help keep you grounded in reality. Maybe it’s something along the lines of, “This isn’t a competition” if you’ll be around siblings or family members that like to compare accomplishments. It could be something more general, like, “I’m not going to let anything get to me today” which would work for any type of unsettled feelings.

5. Get ready to laugh. When we reach adulthood, we’d like to think we’ve been able to put old sibling issues and parent hang-ups behind us, but these things can be hard to shake. Coming home for the holidays can re-open old wounds and can bring us back to the emotional state of a teenager – not a fun feeling. To help combat these feelings, prepare to come at uncomfortable emotions and memories with humor. Laugh about that time you embarrassed yourself in middle school when your brother brings it up. Chances are, it actually is funny by now.

6. Don’t expect perfection. Despite what some of those Hallmark Christmas movies convey, the holidays are never a time for picture-perfect togetherness. Go ahead and level-set your expectations accordingly, and you’ll be prepared to enjoy them for the real experiences they are. Not everything has to be happy all the time or go exactly as planned in order to have a wonderful Christmas. We’re humans, after all!