10 Ways to Survive the Holidays Without Killing Your Spouse

Are the holidays driving you nuts? Or maybe it’s just your spouse, your kids, your boss, those evil neighbor-children, everyone at the store, and complete strangers in general. Ack!!

holiday-bellsYup. It’s that time of year. If you’re like most of us, you’re feeling stressed and overextended now that the holidays have kicked in. Add some holiday travel and extended family into the mix and–damn!–down you go.

Here are 10 tips for surviving the holidays without killing your spouse.

TIP #1: Take time for yourself.

Forreals, people. This stuff gets 28 times harder when we’re overscheduled and overwhelmed. When we’re under stress, our adrenaline kicks in and our brains start functioning in fight-or-flight mode. What this means is that we start looking for a fight, shut down or run away.

Which

a) doesn’t solve any problems and

b) only makes everything more complicated.

So chill out and give yourself a breather. Schedule some down time into your planner, if you have to. However you do it, make that time sacred. Cause it is.

TIP #2: Whittle down that to-do list. Focus on what really matters, and let the rest go.

See above.

TIP #3: Spend quality time with the people who matter. 

I can be as social as the next person 75% of the time. The other 25% of the time I need to chill the fuck out (or CTFU, as we’ve taken to calling it in my house). I can talk anybody out of paper bag (whatever that metaphor is supposed to be) but at the end of the day, I need me some quiet time.

And when I don’t get that quiet time (which is what happens when I’m trying to do everything and be everyone), I get pretty darn grumpy. And I’m no fun to be around–especially for my family.

But those are the people who most matter to me.

So I’ve had to dial back the social-meter. To say NO to events that sound fun, but I just don’t have the bandwidth for. Cause I’m sure as hell not Superwoman or Supermom. Which leads me to my next point:

santapixabaypixTIP #4: Say NO.

For real. Say NO the things that don’t really matter so that you can say YES to the things that do.

Like: volunteering when you really don’t want to. Or: baking extra cookies. Spending $600 extra dollars on toys that will be destroyed in three week’s time. Working that extra shift. Staying up till midnight cleaning the house. Decorating till you’ve poked out an eyeball. Get the picture?

TIP #5: Say YES.

Nope, not messing with you.

Just trying to encourage you to take a few minutes and focus on your priorities. You can do this each morning, or every week. Take 5 minutes to figure out what you want to say YES to this holiday season and you’ll save yourself so much pain down the road. I promise.

Bonus tip: Write it down and keep your list where you can see it. Put it on your phone, and set an automated reminder.

TIP #6: Don’t take it personally. 

Wondering why your best friend hasn’t returned your last six texts? Why your mother-in-law is giving you the evil eye? Why your boss looks like his head’s about to explode?

I know it feels like they’re mad at you, but the truth is that it probably has nothing to do with you. We’re all stressed as hell right now–it’s just that time of the year. So why do we take it so personally?

Remember that fight-or-flight thing that happens when we’re stressed? Our brains work overtime looking for potential threats. And if we’re not sure what to make of something, our brains makes up stories about it, regardless of what’s really going on. And because focusing on potential danger was a way of keeping our primitive selves safe back way back when, the stories our brains make up are almost always negative.

Here’s how that might play out:

Someone scowls at you, and you assume they’re pissed off. You don’t hear back from a friend for weeks (yup) and you assume it’s your fault (uh-huh). Your brain makes up a story (shit, what did I do to piss her off?!) when in reality it has nothing to do with you (turns out she was busy taking care of a sick family member).

Crazy, right?

And we all do it. Think of all the better things we could be doing with all that wasted energy …

TIP # 7: Don’t try to save the world.

Man, alive. This is a tough one! Everywhere I look, I see people in pain–especially this time of year (and especially after this crazy-mean political season.) And most of us want some kind of a-saving. But we all have limited resources.

And we can’t help anyone else if we’re already fried (see TIP #1).

So let’s take a minute and figure out if

a) someone really needs your help and

b) you’re able to freely give your help without feeling resentful.

  • For example, can you really dig that friend out of debt? At what cost to you and your family?
  • Can you really take your friend’s child for an extended weekend even though you’re about to blow your top with your own kids?
  • Can you really host dinner for 40 people when you can barely get out of your jammies?
  • Can you really listen to your fair-weather friend complaining for the 27th time this week when you’ve got your own shit to deal with?
  • Can you really work 14 hour days? At what cost to your heath, yourself and your family?

If not, repeat after me: Not my monkeys. Not my circus. 

TIP # 8: If your holidays involve extended family, remember that you or your spouse is going to regress at some point and start acting like you did when you were a kid. Especially if anyone’s parents are involved.

Yes, I know. You thought you were past that! We all did. But the sad truth is that once you stick us back into our family of origin, we start acting like we did when we were 12. Or two.

Know this, plan for it and act accordingly. Do whatever it is you have to do to maintain your sanity, whether it’s threatening your kid sister with a pair of nunchucks (kidding!), eating an entire chocolate fountain by yourself (kidding again!) or taking a jog around the blog. You choose.

TIP #9: When you’re with extended relatives, come up with a signal you and your spouse can use when

  • you’re about to flip your lid,
  • you need to escape to the spare bedroom, the next city or hell, the next flight, or
  • you need your spouse to take the kids for 15 minutes before you snap and start biting the heads off bats like Ozzie Osbourne did back in the ‘day.

By the way, you can also use this signal when you feel like your spouse has morphed into a CroMag and you want to reconnect. Even just it just means stepping in to the next room together for 30 seconds to make sure you’re on the same page. About anything.

Your signal can be anything from a secret handshake to a pat on the back to a previously-agreed-upon code word to a full-on rendition of the Beatles “Help.”

TIP #10: Breathe.

Because this, too, shall pass.

So hang in there, friend. You can do this!

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