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5 Easy Things I'm Doing To Prevent A Total Emotional Collapse During The Holidays

Here's how to be an emotional prepper this holiday season.

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My thing with the holidays is that I always look forward to this time of year, but then when it comes, I feel like I'm doing anything I can just to get through it.

@80s_90s_00s / Via instagram.com

It's all just exhausting — giving and receiving presents, traveling, worrying about money, your routine getting interrupted, lots more time than usual with people (your family, other people's families, coworkers, your partner's coworkers, etc.), being alone when you'd rather not be (if that is your deal, btw, I highly recommend this guide to doing Christmas alone) — and after the new year I feel like I've been run over by a Zamboni.

But this year I have a plan. And it's not over the top or super aspirational self-care-wise. I'm just putting in place five (five!) easy, quick things that I have VERY good reason to believe will keep me feeling OK (if not good!). I suspect these will work because they're all things that keep me together throughout my day-to-day life, so packing them all into a span of a couple weeks should work like a charm.

1. I'm pretending to be an anthropologist from another planet.

NBC

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.

2. I'm downloading episodes of Parks and Rec to my iPhone.

NBC / Via Twitter: @nocontextpawnee

If you don't already have a TV show that always delights you no matter what, I'm going to need you to get involved with that immediately. And then you should download a few episodes RIGHT AWAY so that they're on your phone when you need to sneak away for 10 minutes (or a couple hours) — watch them to your heart's content with or without a Wi-Fi signal. Trying to figure out what to watch when you're already deep in stress or despair or stuck somewhere without internet access is basically the rotten cherry on a miserable sundae, so avoid it at all costs.

Parks and Rec has gotten me through so many stressful moments and sleepless nights. And knowing that there's a handful of episodes right there on my phone waiting for me when I crawl into bed at night, or just whenever I need them, is really comforting.

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3. I'll be using a meditation app. HEAR ME OUT.

It's called Insight Timer and you can listen to guided meditations on everything from de-stressing and getting better sleep to starting the day feeling calmer and with more self-compassion, and more — you name it. Plus, you can browse meditations by duration, and they have a 0-3 minute option. It doesn't have to be a whole big thing — you can spend ONE MINUTE listening to a super chill voice talk you through a meditation and come out of it feeling legit more grounded.

I've been doing this every morning and it's true what a lot people have been saying for thousands of years — meditation is great. I'm the millionth person to tell you that so I will stop evangelizing now.

4. I'm going to take a morning and/or evening walk EVERY DAY.

@sallytamarkin / Via instagram.com

I usually opt to stop working out for any period of time that I'm traveling. I need a rest week or two built into my programming anyway, and lining it up with travel removes the headache of packing all my workout gear, wondering how I'll get to the nearby gym, wondering if the nearby gym will have the stuff I need, etc. But when I'm not working out everyday I start to really miss that one hour a day when I'm alone, in my head, and moving my body. So, I go for walks.

My favorite times of day are early morning and dusk when it's chill and calm and just me, my podcast, the squirrels, and people's pretty Christmas decorations in their windows and on their houses. You can also take walks when they're urgently needed in the moment (like when shit at home is falling apart), but I prefer the prophylactic stroll around. Note: You can do this even if you're not traveling for the holidays!

5. I'm hoarding podcast episodes.

Sally Tamarkin

My podcast feed is a precious, precious place. I need my podcasts the way music people need certain albums or artists. In fact, the only time I'm not spending all my time listening to them is in the couple weeks before Christmas. During that time I don't listen to ANY new episodes. Why? Because I'm collecting the shit out them so that when I really need an engrossing story or a fascinating interview, I'm totally covered and can binge on my favorites. But also, beyond the distraction that a great podcast episode provides, knowing that you have a pile of your favorite thing, instead of just one or two of your favorite thing, is just such a delight.

If you want, tell me in the comments what your secrets are for getting through the holidays. And godspeed!

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