Oh, the holidays! Everyone is crazy right now. I know, because, as an advice columnist, the amount of letters I receive always multiples at least three times in the final weeks of the year. Anxieties and tempers are high. Seemingly simple messages are loaded with the weight of the world (or, at least the weight of family baggage from decades past). People are on edge. And relationships that are challenging at all -- and those are often the ones you've had most of your life -- can become downright unbearable this time of year. People say the wrong thing they don't mean to say, or people HEAR the wrong thing because they're being sensitive because they're tired and they're stressed and they're lonely and they feel like they're the only ones whose lives aren't perfect in this Overly-Pinned world where appearances aren't always reflective of reality. Here are some things to keep in mind to help keep your perspective in check and keep you sane as we enter the belly of the holiday season beast:
1. Those pictures you're seeing on holiday cards and on Facebook and Instagram and blogs and wherever else of happy, perfect families where everyone looks so jolly and glad to be together? They aren't the whole truth. What you don't see are the countless meltdowns, the cat barf someone just cleaned up, the fifth accident the 3-year-old who refuses to poop on the toilet had this week, or the fight the husband and wife had last week about how they're spending way too much on gifts and holiday travel and won't have enough for the bathroom upgrade they'd hoped to make early next year. You see the newborn baby, fresh from sleep, but you don't see the crying jags the postpartum, hormonal mother has had almost every day for the past three weeks. Photos are NOT reflective of reality. They are small sliver of the truth. Often, the best version of the truth. But not the whole truth.
2. If you put on a few pounds this month, just remember that sweater season is forgiving. And so are yoga pants. Which, obviously, is the whole reason the holidays are at the very start of winter, when most of us will be bundled up from head to toe for the next few months, flaws hidden under layers of flannel and knit and cashmere warmth. Now, pass the cookies, please.
3. Going out on New Year's Eve is often overrated. You'll probably have more fun if you invite a couple of friends over to enjoy a home-cooked meal, some cocktails, good conversation, and maybe some games. Going out is great, too, if you've got someplace fun to go. But pack some flats to change into later in the night. You'll thank me later.
4. If you're single and feeling blue, just remember that it's better to be lonely on your own than lonely in a relationship. At least there's the exciting anticipation that you could meet someone at any time. Plus, being single has its perks. Like, you don't have to spend any of your holiday vacation time with someone else's crazy family. Instead, you can spend it all with YOUR crazy family. Or, spend a little of it with your crazy family and a lot of it with friends or on your own doing stuff you really enjoy that you don't have to explain to anyone else who might not "get" it.
5. If it's been a rotten year with things that have left you feeling depleted and not in a celebratory mood, be low-key about your festivities this year. Anyone who expects you to be all jolly when life has been challenging isn't worth worrying about. Take advantage of these darkest days of the year and go dark yourself if you want. Read books and watch movies and have all the feelings you need to have. And then, when 2015 rolls on in in a few days, say, "Thank God!" A new year with a clean slate that hasn't been tarnished by sadness or disappointment always has so much promise.
6. If holiday travel stresses you out and you hate being so immersed in humanity in the crowds of busy airports and bumper-to-bumper highways, try to something kind for someone else. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture, but see where you can make things a little bit easier or more enjoyable for someone else -- by offering your aisle seat to a really tall person, or helping a mother carry a car seat to her gate, or buying the person in the car behind you at the drive-through a milkshake -- and chances are, you will feel better. And, hell, even if you don't, someone else probably will, and sending out that ripple of good will DOES have a domino effect. Even if you can't feel it immediately, the good energy you put out there will come back to you eventually.
7. If all else fails, remember: this, too, shall pass. In two weeks, it will all be over. And airline tickets to Mexico will be about 30 percent lower to boot. Like I said: the new year always has such promise.
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