Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season, and for many it's followed with a month of stress and exhaustion.
Trying to please everyone with as little drama or conflict as possible can be mentally and physically exhausting. Throw in crowded stores, scarce empty parking spaces, stockings to fill, parties to attend, perfect presents to buy and trees and cookies to decorate and we sometimes forget this is supposed to be a joyful time.
We reached out to Charlotte Lankard for tips on how to maneuver through the next month, embrace the holiday spirit and just breathe. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and columnist for The Oklahoman.
Things to consider
Try giving up everyone's expectations, canceling a few parties, getting extra sleep, buying fewer gifts and deleting some long-standing family traditions.
Quit acting surprised by large crowds everywhere — at checkout counters, airports and highways. Shop early in the morning if possible. Try to get the first flight of the day.
Quit acting surprised by harried personnel, unexpected delays and possible wintry weather. Expect them and decide ahead of time how you want to manage yourself in the midst of them.
A few weeks early give your grandchildren some dollars with instructions to spend it on children who will not find packages under the tree on Christmas morning. Ask them to shop, wrap and deliver to the children they choose. Then they are to tell you all about it. That will be their Christmas gift to you.
Spend only the money you can afford. When that is limited, write notes of appreciation or give gifts of time.
Do what pleases you when decorating your home or your yard. Don't do anything just because someone else is doing it.
Gain some perspective. Consider less of everything that doesn't matter and more of everything that does.
at family gatherings
When you pack your bags, take along a sense of humor, a healthy dose of kindness and forget the ridiculous idea that it will be different this year. Expect the difficult folks to act like they always do.
Plan ahead of time how to cope with them. Refuse to engage in arguments, don't spend a lot of time around the ones who push your buttons and exit quickly when you are about to lose it.
Frame every disaster — and there will be at least one — by asking yourself, “In five years, will this matter?”