Between travel, food, coordination, missing work, and the regularly, unregular schedule of Marine Corps life, family gatherings during the holidays can be stressful. Not all stress is bad. In fact, it can make us creative, energized, and excited for new things. However, too much stress can be detrimental and really put a damper on our festive spirit.

Five tips to a happier and healthier holiday:

  1. Set expectations. Think about things like food, drink, gifts, and attire when hosting or attending an event. Is dinner going to be a potluck? Who’s bringing what? Four turkeys but no sides would throw a wrench in anyone’s Thanksgiving feast. Will there be a gift exchange and what kind? Is it a casual gathering or are you dressing up? If you’re attending, don’t be afraid to ask the host to ensure you and your family are comfortable. Communicating standards is key.
  2. Be realistic. Comparison is said to be the thief of joy; what is the holiday season supposed to be if not joyous? Getting inspiration from your favorite blog, Pinterest, your neighbors and friends, or even what you or your family was able to do in the past is great, but be realistic and kind to yourself. As a military family, holiday circumstances consistently change and most years will not be the same. Making the most out of the holiday doesn’t mean having to burn yourself out to reach perfection.
  3. Develop traditions that everyone can be a part of. This can be as simple or as complicated as you would like; just remember tip number two! Maybe it’s a song, a game, cooking, volunteering, or a tv show or movie; whatever makes you and your family feel festive. Try to make it something that is as inclusive as possible, so everyone shares that holiday spirit!
  4. Remember the spirit of what brings you together. When attending or hosting family gatherings try to remember this time of year is for love and togetherness. When seeing family, especially after long periods apart, try to focus on the positive things that tie you together. Share happy memories, and work on building new ones.
  5. Have fun. Keeping things in perspective around the holidays can be very helpful. The holidays are supposed to be a positive time. Laugh, relax, and enjoy food and fun with family and friends knowing things don’t have to be perfect. If things get overwhelming, make some time for yourself. A nice after dinner walk, a few deep calming breaths in a quiet room, or whatever helps bring a little more piece and fun to your holiday will make it better for everyone.

Stress is a normal part of life, especially during the holidays. The trick is, don’t let it ruin your cheer. If you would like to learn more ways to overcome stress, no matter the time of year, be sure to attend any of the Marine Corps Family Team Building Managing Stress, Effective Communication, and Conquering Stress with Strength workshops!

Holiday Survival Kit