The easiest way to prevent holiday stress from sneaking up on you is to keep your expectations realistic. If you're in a relationship and both of your families celebrate the holidays on the same day, you may think it's best to please everyone by leaving one party early and arriving late to another, but, in actuality, you're just setting yourself up for disaster. Instead of trying to cram multiple parties into the same day, make it easy on yourself and let your families know that you will be rotating your attendance at each's party every year.
For people with big families, buying presents for everyone can be a real financial burden, especially if your relatives expect lavish ones. Instead of trying to skimp by with trinket gifts (or racking up huge credit card debt) talk to your family and organize a Secret Santa exchange, where everyone in the gift-giving group will only be required to shop for one person. Not only does it ensure that no one feels left out, it will save you a lot of time scouring the mall searching for presents for your irritating Aunt Sally that you'd rather not buy a present for anyway.
When confronted with an unexpected holiday gift, you have two options: keep a stock of back up presents for such situations or just graciously thank the person for the gift. When it comes to holiday presents, there's no quid pro quo rule in place.
Spending several days in the same house with your family can either leave you joyful or exasperated. If it's the latter, prepare yourself if your family is the type to ask embarrassing or inappropriate questions over the dinner table by thinking of evasive answers that you may be able to give. Also, if seeing your family causes more grief than pleasure, remember it's okay to say no too. Don't be afraid to celebrate the holidays with just your partner or kids if your extended family members drive you bonkers.
The holidays are both the most wonderful and chaotic time of the year. Luckily they only last for a little over a month. So, despite any stress you may experience, just take a deep breath and remember January will be here before you know it.
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