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The holiday season can be a wonderful time of year filled with good company and great food. For many of us, it also can be filled with stressful family obligations, awkward conversations, and rather “interesting” gatherings.

But while you can’t pick (or change) your family, you can arm yourself with a few strategies to help you get through the holidays in one piece – while perhaps even enjoying them more than usual.

Here are 5 tips to help you adjust your expectations, shift your focus, and face the merriments with greater ease.

  1. Lower your expectations. Life isn’t picture perfect, so why do we expect the holiday season to be? While it would be great if your home looked like a page out of Better Homes & Gardens, and if your know-it-all cousin didn’t critique everything from the meal to the napkin color, realize that stressing over it isn’t going to help. Adjusting your expectations of others should help you let go of some of the pressure you’re inclined to experience this time of year.
  2. Reconsider your obligations. If packing up the entire family and driving 4 hours to your in-laws is a major source of stress, consider a plan B. Maybe you take this year off and start a tradition of visiting them every other holiday. Or re-schedule your visit to a few weeks earlier than normal so you and your family can enjoy a little calmer and fun of your own. The point is, don’t be bullied into feeling you have to attend every gathering you’re invited to. It might hurt some feelings at first, but eventually, people will respect your honesty, time, and the need for space.
  3. Set boundaries. If certain members of your extended family or otherwise holiday guest list have a knack of going at each other and making a scene, no one but you is forcing you to put up with it. Have a graceful exit strategy in place should things start to get a little tense.
  4. Change the things you can, and accept the things you can’t. Maybe it’s time to call a truce to the feud between you and your brother, or just accept him for who he is. Perhaps you can’t stop your in-laws from giving unsolicited parenting advice, but you can change how you react to it. If we continue to hold people up to an unrealistic idea of how we think they should behave,
  5. When all else fails, laugh. Find the humor in a cringe-worthy situation. After all, laughter is the best medicine. And more often than not, it can turn any uncomfortable occasion into a more pleasant experience.

You know what else can cause stress when you’re hosting a holiday gathering, regardless of who is or isn’t attending? A clogged drain that decided it could not and would not accept even one more ounce of cooking grease, one more onion skin, or one more anything else. If that sort of unpleasantness should befall you, just pick up the phone and give us a call: Conway Services. The company with a long and proud tradition of helping to make the season a little bit brighter.

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