The most stressful part about the holidays varies a little between each of us. Some of us dread the awkward conversations that are bound to come up after too many glasses of cider. Others would rather order off Postmates than have to stuff one more turkey. And don’t even get me started on the anxieties around shopping for the “perfect” gift while not wanting to blow your entire budget.

The Holidays can quickly go from merry and cheery to totally dreadful in 2 seconds flat. I get it.

Here’s some of the ways I deal with holiday stress that actually work.

1. Family Drama.
This might not be a popular opinion, but it’s how I’ve dealt with family drama in the past… here’s how I approach it. I think the biggest mistake here is putting expectations on people who will never live up to them anyway. It’s like, you KNOW your Aunt (or whoever) is going to ask you a borderline offensive question, but for some reason, every year you still expect her to be someone she isn’t— kind and warm and considerate. But she’s not. Going in with those expectations won’t do YOU any good because it’ll only set yourself up for frustration. Instead, go into these events with clear objectives: eat a good meal, talk to the one or two people you really like, and play with the dog (someone always brings a dog). Don’t worry about making small talk with every single person there or polishing your “resume” to show off your life to the family. When you know you’re going to walk into a fire, consider yourself first. Ask yourself where YOU can find the most joy, and put your energy there.

2. Money & the stress of buying gifts.
I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite gifts have been really small and inexpensive items. Nail polish, bobby pins & hair ties, a notebook, fuzzy socks for chilling at home, a one-month Netflix or Spotify subscription, a $10 Starbucks gift card— these are all affordable but still SO awesome to receive as a gift! Even when Adrien and I were young and had no money, getting a thoughtful letter was “enough.” My family is pretty big and instead of trying to find a present for everyone, I make a giant batch of pumpkin spice loaves and give those out. Ingredients run about $12 for 4 loaves, and I wrap them in pastry paper and tie them with a pretty ribbon. It’s beautiful, tasty, and people LOVE them. The ones you care about and who care about you genuinely will NOT be focused on the cost of the gift you get them. The cliche really is true— it’s the thought that counts— ALWAYS. Forget the stress and enjoy the quality time instead.

3. Food & anxieties about eating.
Listen. Just like eating nothing but greens and grains for a whole day won’t turn your health around, neither will a day full of turkey, stuffing, and sweets. A giant salad won’t make you “healthy” and a couple giant indulgent meals won’t “ruin” your progress either. Sit back on the understanding that this is celebratory. It’s exceptional. It’s a few days a year that will NOT undo your progress leading up to it.

Stressing over the holidays completely defeats the purpose of what this time is supposed to be about. Make sure to schedule time for YOU to reflect, rejuvenate, and decompress. Even if it’s just 15 minutes to journal and meditate while you make yourself a cup of tea, make that time non-negotiable. A little hustle and bustle is unavoidable, but most of it can be avoided when we arm ourselves with the right tools and perspective.

Over to you! How do you keep the holiday stress away? I write and meditate daily, and keep my yoga & workout schedule as close to the “usual” as possible. That means the day after Thanksgiving I’m right back on my mat even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Self-care is SO essential. Don’t forget it 😉