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It’s only the first week of November, but the Christmas tree has arrived in the building lobby. Are you already dreading those holiday get-togethers?

Put down that list of excuses you’ve been cultivating and decide this is the year you’re going to change your approach. You can go from “escape” to “empower” using the ideas below, whether you’re navigating Thanksgiving with your family or a deluge of December holiday party invitations.

By the way, keep these options in mind if you’re co-parenting with your former spouse. Beautiful holiday memories are made by celebrating in a way and on a day that makes sense for you. That celebration may, or may not be, a certain date on the calendar.

Volunteer at a charity:

Find a service activity for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Spend all or part of the day helping others.

Counter-balance event time with personal time:

Is hanging out for 8 hours straight on Thanksgiving or Christmas a little much? Let your host know that you’ll be happy to meet them for dessert. And, of course, bring the goodies so they can take a break after a long day of cooking!

The reverse goes for holiday parties. If you’ve had a long day at the office, stop by for a quick cocktail, thank your host for the kind invitation, and say a heartfelt good-night before exhaustion kicks in.

Host your own event:

Last year a colleague decided to take the plunge and host the big meal. Spending Thanksgiving day driving all over the Washington coast trying to make parents, in-laws and grandparents happy was straining her marriage.

There was just one problem – she’s not a great cook. Her answer? Make a few things herself, take help from the grocery store, and ask others to bring their best dishes. Problem: solved!

Plan your self-care:

If skipping an event isn’t possible, go, but make sure your day includes self-care activities. They’ll help you breeze past everyone’s tried and true coping mechanisms like over-eating, drinking too much, binge online shopping, etc.

For example, you could:

  • Exercise, like a morning power walk in nature or a leisurely stroll after the big meal.
  • Plan to watch a favorite movie (preferably a funny one).
  • Cut down on media consumption. Check out for the day if the news or your Twitter feed makes you anxious. Don’t let your social media channels become the boss of you!
  • Have a fantastic home spa experience ready to go.

Whatever makes your heart go, “ahhh,” is your self-care, and that covers any activity from quietly having your favorite cup of tea to rocking a CrossFit work-out. Don’t just talk about it; put it on the schedule and enjoy every second.

Keep an open mind:

Above all else, know that you can handle whatever happens. The antidote to tension and dread is self-confidence and a positive “it’s just one day out of the year” outlook.

And always keep an open mind…and by that I mean let crazy, negative comments come in one ear and out the other!

 

Decide that you’re going to keep the holidays flexible, flowing and fun. Enjoy!