I can be a bit of a Grinch. Don’t get me wrong, its not that I don’t like the holidays, it’s just that the holidays have never necessarily liked me. I come from a family entirely made up of black sheep. We’re all fiercely independent and stressed scatter-brained odd balls. This is my nice way of saying that my family is clinically insane. So, Christmas is really something we’ve never quite gotten down.
I’ve tried for years to coordinate plans and shelled out my savings for a flight home but just because you make it home doesn’t mean the magic of Christmas adorns itself there. You have to deal with the stress of family functions. I’ve always been tickled by the term “family function,” because quite frankly it’s a struggle to function at all when surrounded by family. For me, six Merinos in one room is the equivalent of being trapped in a car with a hyena that laughs at its own jokes.
This year, I decided to throw out the entire stress-induced web of dates and obligations and I’m headed to Mazunte, Mexico to actually give myself the best gift of all: relaxation. For those who can’t fit into my suitcase, I’ve compiled some of the best know-how tips I could with the help of New Orleans’ creative creature and owner of Broads on BroadAntique Store, Sara Landrieu. From funny to fulfilling, these tips will be a sure fire way to ease your stress level during the upcoming busy season and survive your next family function.
Embrace your inner scrooge. Don’t force yourself into things you can’t or aren’t able to do. Be honest with your friends and family about how you’re feeling. They love you and will most likely be understanding.
Lower your standards. You don’t have to outdo yourself, and you don’t have to do the same routine each year. This is a time where you can create your own traditions and allow yourself the flexibility to change. Landrieu added, “One year my daughters and I did homemade ornaments together and it was wonderful- everyone appreciated the thought and we felt happy to have given them all something so personal.”
Spend money wisely/ Give a gift that gives back. Honestly, this is a tip I need to remember more often than not. Stick to buy-one-get-one sites that stretch your wallet out or make a homemade card or gift that shows you care without dishing out dough. Landrieu said this year she started super early and collected these 1,000-year-old oyster shells that she is adorning with gold flake and making into ornaments as gifts. Another great option is to buy a gift that gives back. Whether it’s a pair of toms to give to a child in need, or a pair of Porter LyonsLight up literacy earrings that donates half the proceeds to charity, it will make you feel great.
Get physical. Seriously, part of the reason people get depressed during the holiday season is because its cold, and you’re less active when trapped inside. Exercising will help release endorphins in your brain and ultimately put you in a better mood. Especially during the season when people tend to body-shame themselves and try to put restrictions on their cookie intake. Feel better mentally and physically and boost your confidence!
“Should” is a guilty word. This is one of my favorite quotes from my father, and it holds true in almost all situations. If you don’t want to go to the party, don’t. But don’t linger on your decisions. If it’s the difference between expectations and what your heart wants, you end up being motivated by guilt instead of being motivated by love. “Should” is the fear of disappointing people. Be clear with your words and actions and you won’t find yourself thinking about things you “should” be doing.
You don’t have to attend everything and you don’t have to stay the whole time. Choose a few parties or events that you think will work with your schedule. Agreeing to “stop by” gives you time flexibility and makes you look like a saint when you actually do. “I get invited to lots of things,” Adds Landrieu, “ and I tell my husband that we’ll go for ‘5 minutes.’ Taking the time to make an appearance is easy and gratifying for me and for the hosts. Often times the 5 minutes turns into 5 hours because we get to talking and actually do have a good time!”
Pretend they’re dead. This one sounds awful, but in retrospect, it actually allows you to live in the now and appreciate the bigger picture. Life is impermanent and moments are fleeting. Creating an ephemeral outlook allows you to see past the little annoyances you tend to pinhole and into the larger realm of enjoying the time you have now with the ones you love.
Bring a friend to your family party. Your family will have to (hopefully) be on their best behavior for the sake of first impressions. Either that, or at least you have someone to watch the train wreck you call your family with.
If all else fails, tranquilize yourself with alcohol. This one is pretty self-explanatory.
Do a little somethin’ for yourself. Landrieu treats herself by getting dressed up in her favorite business suit one afternoon, taking a break from wearing her regular crafting clothes, and going down to the Roosevelt for lunch. Sometimes with a friend and sometimes alone. Landrieu stresses the importance to takes the time to appreciate the history and culture in Nola.
Whether its taking an hour to call a friend you haven’t been able to catch up with, giving a gift from the heart, or buying yourself that Porter Lyons necklace you’ve had bookmarked for the past few months: allow yourself something that makes you feel a little better this holiday season.
Julianne Merino is an artist and published writer with ART+DESIGN Magazine and LyonsDenBlog.com with a concentration on arts writing. Winner of the Frederick Whitaker Foundation Award for excellence in painting, she also teaches printmaking at New Orleans Glassworks & Printmaking Studio, as well as works music festivals around the country.