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6 Ways to Mentally Prepare for the Holidays

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5 people sitting around a table holding sparklers wearing Santa hats during the holidays.

I would be lying if I told you I loved the holidays. Although many of us enjoy spending time with relatives, we all can agree there is a time limit to our interactions with them. With the added stress of a global pandemic and the recent U.S. presidential election, I think we all need to put in more effort in protecting our mental health and sanity this season. These are 6 ways to mentally prepare for the holiday season. 

1. Non-competitive gingerbread house making

Many people’s favorite way to ease into the holiday season, whether or not the spirit is in the air, is by building the most extravagant gingerbread house the world has ever seen. There is no specific time for a gingerbread house competition and no age limit to making one. The crafting aspect of this project has enough therapeutic qualities for us to accept the holiday season has started and it may be time to hang the holiday wreath.

It also does not hurt to accept that half of the fun in creating the gingerbread house is eating your masterpiece as you build.

2. Holiday movie marathon

The world outside is uncertain and fickle, so the movie ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ is one that can be stagnant and comforting. To be frank, to properly prepare or navigate the holiday season, we have to do things we like to do. This is especially hard for holiday hosts and newly returned college students. The comfort of rewatching old favorites will put us at ease when the aunts ask questions that become pointed and accusatory.

Considering half of the holiday battle is finding our own peace amidst the chaos, there is no harm in looking to Hallmark for escape.

3. Read up

You’ll likely find yourself needing to steer the conversation away from certain topics. Therefore, it is time to start reading again. For many students, the beginning of the holiday season is the onset of finals, making life a slew of stress on top of more stress. The one thing that we can control is our free time. Never let your assignments take control of you. Scheduling time to read one chapter from that book catching dust on your shelf might be the best way to mentally prepare for the Facebook conspiracy theory quoting cousin. 

A woman in a holiday sweater sitting on a window sill reading a book next to a puppy with a Santa hat on.

4. Out with the old, in with the new

Find time to declutter your space. With the impending extravagance of the holiday season, it is easier than ever to start to feel overwhelmed. Mentally, we need to make our living space as comforting as possible even if we may have to give up some comfort when meeting with relatives during the holidays. Minimalizing your room or your home before the rush of the holidays, can help the holiday to-do list seem less taxing.

Even though holiday cleaning is the worst, reimagine this project as your effort to carve out your own space for only positivity. 

5. Christmas photoshoot

Given the circumstances, Christmas may be light this year. Still, the soft weeping of our wallets should never stop us from making sure we still look good and feel good. It is a right to put on our best to parade around the house this holiday season. Many of us spent a large portion of our year in ‘Zoom’ attire. We deserve to change our appearance this season and build the confidence we might have lost somewhere between March and past Marches. Before you lose your sanity, grab your friends, siblings, pet, whomever, and share some laughs.

A boy in a grey sweater smiling at the camera with his arms crossed next to a Christmas tree.

6. When all else fails, sit at the kids’ table

The family gathering has begun but you can’t seem to shake the feeling of dread. When in doubt, find your little cousins. When it comes to kids, there is a range in their understanding of the way the world works around them. For many of them, even if they understand, they do not care. Your little cousins will not ask you about your plans after college or a thousand and one questions about your university’s vague plan on keeping students safe from contracting COVID-19. Your little cousins just want to tell you funny stories. Maybe even play games on their many gaming devices.