It’s November, so you know what that means! Besides gubernatorial elections, Guy Fawkes Day, and Veterans’ Day. Besides Movember, a.k.a. National Magnum P.I. Appreciation Month.
Those are all good guesses, but November means “the holidays” are officially upon us!
For a lot of us, Thanksgiving and Christmas are anything but the most wonderful time of the year. Rather, the holidays are an eight-week barrage of stress.
Family politics. Obligatory extended family dinners. Avoiding getting “tell Uncle Sal how you really feel” drunk. Overspending. Overeating. Last-minute scrambles. Resentment. Reliving grief. Finding something to wear to the obligatory office holiday party. Avoiding getting “tell Gordon from AR how you really feel” drunk. Delivering presents to all of the boys and girls of the entire world in one night.
That last one really only applies if you are Santa Claus, but the rest are pretty universal. The holidays are hard, anxiety-inducing work for many people.
Fortunately for you, I’ve come up with seven tried-and-true ways to reduce your stress and have the best holiday season ever!
Disclaimer: Many of these tips will get you disowned, arrested, or otherwise create their own stress. I cannot be held responsible for anything you do on the advice of some random person from the Internet. Continuing to read this confirms your understanding that I am not a therapist, a psychologist, or a good person.
1. Convert to a religion without holidays.
If you’re in the mood to avoid the stress of Thanksgiving and Christmas, why not swear allegiance to a religion that doesn’t allow celebrations? No one can be mad at you for not coming to dinner if it’s against your religion. Not sure what religion to go with? When in doubt, make one up!
“Sorry, Cindy, I know you really want all of us back together for Thanksgiving, but Cosmic Archbishop Kia Sorento has prohibited us from gatherings of more than 2 people where bird carcasses are present. I hope you understand, and I’ll pray for you. Cadenza, Cindy. Cadenza.”
FAQ: Do I really have to believe in whatever the new religion says?
Answer: Yes. Cindy will see right through that shit if you’re faking it. And she won’t hesitate to call you out. You know how Cindy gets. Don’t risk it.
2. Check into 60-day rehab.
Do you have a substance abuse problem? BAM. Here’s a chance to get clean and avoid the stress of the next two months. And your insurance may even cover it!
FAQ: What if I don’t have a substance abuse problem?
Answer: You don’t have a “rehab worthy” problem to address? No worries, friend. Think of how much easier rehab will be! Sixty days of group therapy, good meals, exercise, and focusing on you is just what the doctor ordered for just about everyone. After all, the best gift you can give your family is a trip to Disneyworld a new, healthier you.
3. Give your children up for adoption.
This one might seem extreme, but ditching your kids will save you a TON of money (and stress!) this holiday season…and beyond! To prep them for the change, put a DVD of Annie (preferably the original, but the new one will work in a pinch) on constant repeat, and scale back their feedings to consist mostly of porridge. Hire the smallest ones out as chimney sweeps if possible to earn a few extra bucks.
FAQ: Won’t I feel guilty?
Answer: Probably, but you can soothe the pain by taking the money you’re saving and their chimney sweeping wages. Use your windfall to spend the holidays somewhere that doesn’t include Disney characters. To quote the great philosopher, Mickey Mouse, “Oh boy!”
4. Denounce consumerism.
Want to alienate everyone you meet? It’s easy. First, stop purchasing things, and make sure everyone knows that you’ve stopped purchasing things. Broadcast the evils of America’s consumer culture to everyone you meet. Make condescending commentary a running theme of your day.
“Wow, Jill. Those are some beautiful shoes. I’m sure the kids in Sri Lanka who made them are glad to know you have a 48th pair to go with your other 47.”
“I am planning our office Secret Santa this year. No presents. The only thing you can give is a musk ox or a llama to a subsistence farmer in the developing world.”
Done properly, you’ll ensure that you’re not invited to any holiday parties this year.
Pro tip: For added impact, remember: deodorant is not only a carcinogen, it’s also manufactured by global conglomerates that destroy the planet. The worse you smell, the more you’re doing to save the world.
And as a side bonus, less people will want to talk to you. And after all, that’s the true meaning of Christmas.
5. Fake your own death.
Seems dramatic, I know. You’re thinking, “I really hate being stressed out for two months straight, but I also don’t want to start over under an assumed identity in a remote part of the country.” But look at the bright side: if you’re “dead,” you’re not only getting out of holiday hell. You’re also getting out of debt, your second cousin’s second and third weddings, and your upcoming high school reunion.
FAQ: Isn’t that illegal?
Answer: Yes. But so is blindly stabbing everyone at Grandma’s house with a shiv you crudely fashioned from a gravy boat because your dad won’t shut up parroting Fox & Friends over the blaring Dallas Cowboys game. *deep breath.
Pick your poison, Cupcake.
6. “The Single Uncle Approach.”
For those of you who still want to enjoy the Christmas holidays, but without the stress, consider radically simplifying your approach.
Christmas is stressful for you, but it’s almost never stressful for your kids’ single uncle, Uncle Bobby. His Christmas madness starts at 5 pm on Christmas Eve with a trip to any truck stop between his bachelor pad and your house. Bobby shows up at your place at 6 pm, hands out some lotto tickets and assorted car care accessories, and takes home three plates of leftovers.
FAQ: The kids are too young for lotto tickets, and a gallon of windshield wiper fluid seems like a stupid and dangerous gift.
Answer: That’s not a question. But, you’re missing the point. Bobby doesn’t feel guilty or worry about any of that. And he’s going to have a better, more relaxed holiday than you, 10/10. Take a hint from single Uncle Bobbies everywhere, and phone this Christmas in.
7. Take a deep breath, and realize that stress is simply the dissonance between expectations and reality.
Radical left turn: I’m about to get all philosophical on y’all.
Stress happens when your expectations and your reality don’t match. Chances are, you don’t have a ton of control over the impending political argument between your dad and your cousin. You don’t have a say in whether the mall is a madhouse (hint: the mall will be a madhouse) or if there’s adequate parking (hint: there’s not). You can’t decide whether your husband will have the day off, whether the new recipe you try will be good, or whether you’ll be able to find the must-have toy of the year for your kiddos.
But you can control your expectations.
You can prioritize enjoying your family’s company, and ignore the made-up “reality” portrayed on Pinterest. Despite what the Internet would have you believe, the best memories are rarely polished and perfect.
You can mindfully ask yourself, “am I doing _______________ because I want to, or because I think I have to?” There simply isn’t much you truly have to do in this world. Ask Uncle Bobby, he’ll tell you.
You can decide in advance that Dad and Cousin Sal are going to get into an argument, and recognize that you’re not a referee. Let ‘em fight, it’s not your problem.
You can order catering for Christmas, have a potluck, cook it all yourself, or order pizza at the last minute, and none of those options define you.
And if all of that fails, just put your kids up for adoption and fake your own death.