People are counting down the days to December 31, 2019 – the number is 47 as of this writing – and for many people, there’s as much stress and merriment. Planning to have fun can be hard work, ironically, and visiting friends and relatives you don’t see all that often can lead to awkward situations and tense conversations.
Don’t let your mental health suffer during the “holidaze,” as I like to call them, those crazy days after Halloween and especially on and after Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving which features major mark-down sales, huge crowds of bargain-hunters, and the realization that now there are only 33 days left in the year. Instead, prepare to stay calm, cool, and collected with a little bit of planning.
There is one little tip that can save your sanity come November and here it is:
- JUST SAY NO.
Polite refusal is a mental health technique that works all year long but is especially handy when dealing with holiday activities. When the first Christmas rolled around after I started dating my future husband, he told me point-blank that he would have nothing to do with decking the halls or anything else, for that matter. No lights, no tree, nada, zip. This is really working out for him and I have adapted to his preference (which some might call sloth), grateful for his candor.
Setting boundaries is important to keep communications clear and prevent hard feelings and resentments due to failed expectations from happening. Narcissistic personalities (self-centered, always right while putting you down) only respond to ultimatums such as “Respect me or I’m outta here.” However, you must honor your line in the sand if you want others to take you seriously and follow through with promised consequences to their misbehavior.
You can also decline party invitations and shun other assorted gatherings that pop up this time of year. In case you were wondering, those four capital letters on many invites – RSVP – means “please reply” in French (Respondez-vous s’il vous plaît). If you know you don’t want to go to Aunt Sally’s salsa shindig, she’d probably like to know in advance so she could give your portion to someone else. Just sayin’.
People who try to do everything wind up exhausted, frustrated, and stressed out. The secret to polite refusal is to say “please” and “thank you” a lot, as in, “Thank you but I can’t make it.” You don’t need to invite a competitive argument or insult the inviter by saying you made other plans or got a better offer – even if true. I like to add, “Please keep me in mind for the next get-together,” to keep the doors of friendship open.
If the host you turned down cops a bad attitude or is genuinely hurt, return the invitation for a date next year – after the holidaze. But be sure to stand your ground if the inviter starts pressuring you to change your mind and cave. If all else fails, tell the truth: “I will have to be there in spirit because my body is [weak / tired / sick / sick and tired] and I need some personal time.”
Believe it or not, you can walk away from obnoxious people, whether they are family, friends or total strangers. You don’t have to stand or sit next to a sloppy drunk who is threatening your ugly sweater with a steaming mug of spiked egg nog – simply disengage politely (remember to say “please” and “thank you” a lot) and skedaddle. If confronted later, say you were mingling.
It’s also perfectly okay to duck out of conversations that stray into one of the three topics my mother taught me were taboo at any social assembly: sex, politics, and religion. These subjects often push people’s buttons and heated arguments almost never change anyone’s mind about anything.
When party people act confrontational, challenge your beliefs or criticize your choices, you aren’t under any obligation to school them or make them feel good about themselves. You can launch a defensive counter-attack by saying you don’t welcome such opinions, that the other person is flat-out wrong or that you don’t want to talk to that individual anymore because you object to what they are saying.
If someone is hassling you at a party, say you don’t appreciate it. Rather than suffering in silence and or getting involved in a dispute you can’t win (and might create enemies for life), change the subject. If that doesn’t work, turn away and talk to someone else. If that doesn’t work, walk away.
When all else fails – or if you’re simply good and ready – leave. This doesn’t have to be a grand production. Simply collect your belongings, put on your coat, strap on your boots, make like a banana, and split. If you can find the hosts and thank them on your way out, that’s great, but don’t feel obliged to go out of your way. If it’s a good party, they probably won’t even notice.
Leaving whenever you want doesn’t work quite so well if you drove a carpool to the event but you can warn your riders that you might bug out early so they should have a backup option to return home such as another friend, a taxi or Uber/Lyft.
Fail to plan and plan to fail. Stay sane and Ho! Ho! Ho! your way through the holidaze with some well-placed No! No! No!