1. Say Ho, ho, NO.
You can’t expect your family to respect your boundaries if you don’t set any in the first place! If you feel over-taxed by too much togetherness, you can manage your sanity by politely declining one out of five caroling invitations or letting mom know you’ll be there for dinner . . . just maybe not in time for the niece-and-nephew nativity play this year.
2. Give the gift of ‘me time.’
If you add one item to your holiday calendar, make it a day (or even just an afternoon) off, for you to relax and recharge. Knowing you have quiet time to look forward to will help you enjoy and appreciate the hustle and bustle of your family festivities.
3. Mix it up!
There’s definitely something to be said for tradition and for those holiday activities that you look forward to all year long. But who’s to say you can’t start your own tradition and make the family party that much merrier? Whether it’s introducing a fun new board game, a bag of silly hats, or a cookie decorating contest, maybe it will become the thing everyone else looks forward to in the future.
4. Take perfect off the table.
If you’re not merely attending, but hosting a family gathering, remember that it takes teams of chefs and food stylists and photographers weeks to put together those Bon Appétit magazine spreads—and no one expects your holiday feast to look like that. Seriously. Spend less time worrying about making everything ‘perfect’ and more time pouring mugs of mulled wine between courses.
5. Go your own way.
I love my family and I love our annual celebrations, but this year I asked Santa for palm trees instead of pine trees. My husband and I live in the Dominican Republic and rather than making the long trek to New England we’re staying put and enjoying Christmas-for-two in paradise. There’s nothing wrong with taking a year off from family if that’s what jingles your bells. (Hey, this is what FaceTime was made for.)