Val’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays

With Thanksgiving behind us, the “official” holiday madness has begun. Here are my nine tips for surviving the holidays:

surviving the holidaysMake this the year you generate a gift list (and budget) for family and friends and actually stick to it. I happen to perform best under pressure and love the euphoria of waiting to the bitter end to complete (and succeed at) a task. At the same time, however, I’m the first to admit that I’ve purchased gifts that were convenient for me to give but not necessarily appropriate for the recipients (which sort of undermines the point of gift giving). Also, I’ve severely overspent because of the time crunch, which meant my wallet really took a hit.

Commit to spending one hour creating your holiday shopping list within the first week of December.


surviving the holidaysExercise can be incredibly cathartic and effective at relieving stress throughout the year. But during the holidays I typically jettison exercise from my schedule because I’m too stressed or tired to fit it in.

Let’s agree to hit the gym just twice a week this month—but we’ll do it every week in December. I know you hardcore exercise fiends will be in the gym every day, regardless of how many parties you attend, how much wine you drink, or how late you stay up. I admire your ability to maintain a pace that is definitely not my own reality anymore. That said, even if I can no longer find the time or energy to work out daily, I know that twice-a-week exercise will help keep my stress level down while I try to cram too much good cheer into one month.

 Resolve to hit the gym twice a week–that’s it.


Let’s make a pact to tune out our electronic devices—and tune in to our families—for at least two hours a week. Even if spending time with the family is something you usually endure more than enjoy, be present at those moments. These times are a great opportunity to reconnect with the people you love and show them that they really are important in your life. (And if you’re not especially fond of those family members . . . well, consider this “quality family time” your penance for the holiday season.)

Spend two hours a week tuning out electronic devices and tuning in to our families.


Now that you’ve committed to spending focused time with your family, practice your deep-breathing exercises so you’re prepared for those moments when your loved ones  drive you crazy. Those exercises also come in handy for dealing with the general stress of the season.

Deep breathing slows your heart rate and lets you clear your head. When you feel your hands clench and the hair on the back of your neck stand up, focus on taking deep breaths. Start by counting to four as you inhale and to five as you exhale, then increase those numbers as high as you can (without passing out). Focusing on your breathing lets you to disconnect from your stress, and after just a few minutes you’ll be steadier and ready to jump back into the fray with a clearer head.

Breathe deeply when you’re feeling overwhelmed, angry, or upset.


If you’re traveling by plane, prepare to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight. Airports are especially chock full of people at this time of year, so getting through security will be even worse than usual. Because many of those people fly only during the holidays and aren’t familiar with travel regulations, expect long lines and delays as they argue with the TSA about trying to carry liquids in excess of what’s allowed, take lots of time untying their shoes and removing several jackets, and are just generally confused by the entire process.

Get to the airport super early (and practice #4 above to deal with the elevated chaos levels there.)


Only accept invitations to events that you absolutely must attend or that you really want to attend. Don’t waste your time on events that you’re attending just because you received an invite to them.

For “obligation” events, plan on stopping by for an hour. Within that timeframe, make a beeline to those folks who need to see your face, then bolt as soon as you’ve checked the must-see people off your list. Have your reason for leaving early planned ahead of time, in case someone tries to thwart your departure with one more glass of wine.

For those events you look forward to attending, use similar tactics (though your departure strategy can be more flexible). If the party’s on a “school night” and you’ve got a crazed week ahead of you, make sure you leave early enough to have time to relax a bit (and destress) at home before hitting the sack.

Attend only mandatory events or parties you’re really excited about.


Find time to pamper yourself, even if it’s just for an hour a week. Get a massage, read a new novel, get a manicure—do whatever you consider a treat. These activities often fall by the wayside during busy times. But making time for yourself every December will help you look forward to the holiday season (with your “me” time) even more!

Go to your calendar right now and block one hour/week to do something for yourself. Resolve to stick to this plan, even if the week spirals out of control.


Just say no. This is a lesson I need to learn better myself: I’m so guilty of saying yes to everything, especially when people ask for help. But earlier this year I had an epiphany and realized that drowning in order to help others is no good for me (and typically leaves me angry at the other person for asking for help in the first place!). You don’t need to ignore someone who truly needs help, but you do need to choose your “yes” moments very, very carefully.

This year, try saying “no” once or twice. Work on prioritizing your time to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed while trying to help others.

Just say no!


This year I plan to stop at two glasses of wine at parties so I’m not hung over, tired, and cranky the next day. Ehh, who am I kidding? I’ll focus on the other eight suggestions instead!

Decide if you want to limit your partying (or endure the consequences), and make sure you’re happy with whatever decision you make.


surviving the holidays
Here’s wishing you an awesome holiday season! Val

Best of luck with your holiday season! Here’s to not only surviving, but thriving. Message me after the new year and tell me how this plan worked for you!



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