How To Survive The Holidays

For many of us, anticipation of the holidays does not necessarily evoke visions of sugar plums in our heads. Instead, this time of year can be stressful, if not in an all-around sense then in ways specific to our personal circumstances. Everything from your relationship status to what you prefer to eat can cause trouble when family and high-pressure festivities are brought into the mix, so it’s best to prepare in advance for whatever particular problems might arise. Here, our guide to surviving the holidays no matter your situation and remember, champagne always helps.

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How To Survive The Holidays

Depending on where you'll be spending the holidays (and we speak from personal experience on this one), the best course of action may be to not so much as mention you're vegan. Admitting such preferences inexplicably ignites disdain and defensiveness in meat-eaters, and that's the last thing you want to spend your time off from work experiencing. Bring at least one dish you can load up on if there aren't other options as well as a desert (we love this Paleo Pumpkin Pie recipe) and again, it can be best not to draw attention to the fact that it's vegan unless you want to spend the rest of the meal trying to convince your grandfather that vegan food is, indeed, "real food."

Family time can be challenging, as no one feels freer to openly judge your choices than your relatives. (As a single woman in her 30 who hails from Texas, this writer is no stranger to being made to feel like a misfit and pariah while she stress-eats mashed potatoes.) Defensiveness is generally futile. We suggest repeating a calming mantra to yourself ten times in a row before responding, and remember that the person in question (ahem, grandma) is (probably) not trying to hurt you. For single gals, we also highly recommend international travel with a bestie as a means for escaping the pressure of holiday coupling. (Let Smug Marrieds sip eggnog on the couch with their significant others. You'll be busy under the mistletoe with a hot Brazilian, thank you very much.) Read What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding for a little inspiration. If you can't get away, there is nothing wrong with a solo Netflix-and-chill night on NYE.

First off, you should definitely indulge at the holidays—life is short and your pant size doesn’t matter. That said, you don’t want to have a stomach ache every day of your vacation, so it’s important to prioritize when feasting. Here is our guide to making the most of your holiday meals without overindulging to the point of pain.

We don’t know about you, but our family tradition is to (inexplicably) guess at gifts, a technique through which everyone inevitably ends up disappointed. This year, we’re asking our family members to download the Whilo app instead, so we can stop wasting our money while saving ourselves from having to hear “I love it,” through gritted teeth and forced smiles. Whilo allows you to create, follow and share shoppable wishlists. This will be useful even as a means for keeping tabs on your own material desires, so as to counteract a bad-gift hangover by snagging a little something nice for yourself on December 26.

We suggest prepping conversation-starters on non-political topics such as your dad's favorite television show or favorite pet in advance of the holidays. The election is over, and while that does not mean we should keep quiet about our politics (on either side), there is no need to ruin vacation with a fight over the fact that your dad inexplicably wrote in a candidate and thus basically did not vote. (Ahem, dad.) Remember, you love this person. Mantras come in handy here, too.

Kill her with kindness. Pester your significant other for detailed advice on what you should bring her as a hostess gift. Go out of your way to help out with the cooking, cleaning or other entertaining duties whenever you're in her space. Make sure you compliment her regularly, but not in a way that seems inauthentic or desperate. Give her time alone with your significant other, and chill out on the PDA. If all of this fails, watch Fleabag for inspiration on going the opposite direction (the Amazon show features one of the best mother-in-law characters of all time.)

We have a friend whose long-term girlfriend called him out for not proposing on Facebook. It was a bold and hilarious move, and he actually respected it. This was two holiday seasons ago, and they got married this past summer. If you're not looking to publicly humiliate your significant other (and, potentially, yourself) and yet you are very upset, we suggest considering the fact that your undoubtedly cool boyfriend or girlfriend might think it uncool to pop the question at such a generic moment. If this isn't the case, and you were really expecting a ring this holiday season, it's probably best to (gasp!) try talking to them about it.

Work out. Remember, this isn’t about your weight—exercise will keep you sane and balanced through the chaos of the season. Not every holiday destination boasts a Tracy Anderson or Barry’s Bootcamp studio, however, so we suggest you be flexible and adaptable when it comes to your holiday workouts. Don’t forget that you can easily stay fit from home—we love this Selena Gomez-approved full-body workout that can be easily squeezed into even the busiest of holiday schedules. Here, 7 other ways to cure anxiety.

If you don’t like going out on New Year’s Eve, don’t. If spending time with your family makes you depressed or angry, limit or eliminate your exposure to relatives. If you don’t like turkey, order Chinese. Many holiday traditions are a bit arbitrary at this point, and there’s no harm or shame in breaking with the ones that don’t serve you. We suggest you pick one aspect of the season you really enjoy—whether it’s the time off from work, the quality time with family or the excitement of New Year’s Eve—and focus on optimizing that portion of the holiday program. For example, if it’s the vacation time you love, commit to not checking your email while away.) If you don't like anything about the holidays, book a trip in the weeks following the holidays instead. This will give you something to look forward to, and it will be cheaper to boot.