Avoiding a Meltdown this Holiday Season

Regardless of how much anybody loves the holidays, let's be honest with ourselves and those we love: they're stressful beyond all reason. You've got work deadlines, food to eat (I'd say "make" but I hate doing that, so I'm making this point all about me), people to see, and places to go. For some, it's the most wonderful time of year. For others, they would like nothing more than to call it a day until December 26.

Unfortunately, that's not usually an option. So to help you avoid losing your mind for the next couple of weeks, here are some tips to restore sanity or at least prevent crying in the aisle of a Wal-Mart. (A step-up from when I wept behind the cash registers at American Eagle five years ago.)

1. Make a list

And check it twice! (JUST KIDDING, oh my God, could you imagine.) But yes, write down the things you need to do. However, instead of looking at what you need to do as some sort of journey of which you'll never see the end, take it one step at a time. You'll get it done. You have to, so you will. Just tackle one task, then tackle another, and before you know it, you'll have your holiday game on lock and won't even remember was stressing out feels like.

2. Don't get hung up on the details

My Mom is the type of person who worries about whether the cookies she makes will be still be okay if she uses M&Ms instead of chocolate chips, and if our family will still like them. And to her I always say, "Nobody cares." I mean, truly: if you're bringing something to somebody's house, they should be so lucky you made whatever it was at home, and didn't just buy something store bought like the rest of us. And if someone doesn't like that their wrapping paper doesn't match the envelope of their Christmas card, or if someone doesn't like the type of wine you brought, they can take a step back and recognize. You held up your end of the bargain, friend. Chocolate chips are not something to get worked up over.

3. Avoid the malls on weekends or: make friends with your good friend, iPod

I love tips like "avoid the mall!" but I mean, come on. (Unless you live downtown, and in that case, congratulations.) Ultimately, though, at some point you will find yourself in a shopping mall situation and if you have to go on a weekend (which will make you want to scream, please be warned), at least bring your iPod. "An iPod to the mall?!" someone may be asking right now. Yes, absolutely. Not only will you tune out the crowds, you also won't hear the screaming child or loud-talker in line, or anything but the sweet sounds of whatever it is you're listening to. (One Christmas I just kept listening to Nicki Minaj's verse in "Monster" because I needed a constant pep talk. It was miraculous.) Take that, yelling teens!

4. Accept "defeat"

Well, no, not actual defeat, obviously, but accept this: you might not get everything done and that's okay. That's okay! Christmas will not be cancelled if you don't buy bows. It's still going to happen if you stress ate the shrimp ring alone (I can promise you that). You still get to participate if you buy pie. If somebody freaks out about those things — a.k.a. you being a human with a life outside of the month-long window of holiday festivities — it reflects them, not you. So in the words of Fred Armisen as Joy Behar, "So what? Who cares?" You'll get it done, and if you don't, you will not be banned from dinner, and you can still eat shrimp. Holidays, you guys!

Tags: Christmas, depressed, Holidays, how to stay sane, i hate christmas, Self-help, Stress

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