A couple years ago, in simpler times, I interviewed a therapist about how to get through tense family time like a pro. The coolest tip she gave me — and one I started to use and still do — is to pretend to be an anthropologist doing a study of how this group I'm with celebrates the holidays. The idea is that you observe what's happening around you closely, but with an emotional distance from everything you're seeing.
The expert I interviewed was suggesting this as a way of dealing with being around difficult family members, but I've actually iterated on this already incredible strategy. I now use it for interactions I'm seeing everywhere — at the coffee shop, on the subway, while shopping, even on Twitter. The reason I've expanded this to include interactions anywhere in the explored universe is that it's not just families that are difficult during the holidays. We're all riled up, tense, panicked, wishing we were having way more fun than we actually are, and dragging ourselves to the end of the year just trying to cross the finish line. As a result, we're prickly, short-tempered, hypersensitive, ready to pick fights, pessimistic, panicky, sad, etc., etc. In short, we're all acting out and it's a lot to absorb.
So, when shit around me gets really real, whether it's someone I follow on Twitter posting an angry and panicked 18-tweet thread about the terrible news of the moment, people exhibiting terrible subway etiquette, or a friend or loved one being surprisingly short, I just flip that anthropologist switch, and, in a coolly academic way, take note of the peculiar way the people of this planet behave during the holidays.
It works, I'm telling you.