[Photo Courtesy: Priyanka Chopra]

The holiday season can be an incredibly stressful time. Even if you’re like me and you do not celebrate Christmas or partake in any major religious observance during this time, the days off, time spent traveling, and the extra socializing can make this time of year stressful for anyone. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of four strategies for staying sane.

1. Find one-on-one time with people

One of the ways I stay centered during the hustle bustle of the holiday season is making sure to get one-on-one time with the relatives and friends I am closest with. During a time that abounds with large get-togethers, full family celebrations, and public festivities, spending time with an individual family member, friend, or coworker can be a welcome retreat. If you are too pressed for time to schedule a coffee or some time alone to chat, I suggest taking time to write a thank you note to a specific person or remind someone that you are thinking of them. Finding genuine connection amidst the frenzy of interactions can help to bring peace and joy.

2. Find a gratitude routine

If you are part of a family like mine, I am sure you are familiar with the house being filled of relatives, aunts, uncles, grandparents and family friends alike all living under one roof during any stretch of consecutive days off. With so many people around, making a genuine connection or staying present can be challenging. Recently, my family has adopted a tradition that we practice during the holidays. No matter how many people are in our home, during dinner time we will take a moment to go around the table (or living room) and everyone will share gratitude or reflection. This simple gesture helps everyone stay in tune with each other and helps ground us in a pleasant moment from earlier in the day.

3. Give yourself time & grace during travel

Travelling, especially flying or driving long stretches, is STRESSFUL! Give yourself the time and the grace you need to make vacation travel as minimally distressing as possible. Dealing with crowded facilities, weather delays, and the stress of fellow travelers can make anyone totally insane. Do what you need to do to make yourself comfortable with your travel experience. Whether it’s splurging on a travel pillow, upgrading to Economy plus, or just booking a hotel room somewhere to break up a long drive, your sanity is worth it! And, when you reach your final destination, your family and friends will no doubt be grateful for your subsequent good mood.

4. Embrace your unique family traditions

Growing up as an Indian American, the holidays were the time where I always felt the most different from the people around me. My family did not attend a Christmas church service. We have never eaten turkey on Thanksgiving. And, I knew that Santa Claus was fake news before anyone else at my Kindergarten. In high school, I remember having a hard time explaining or embracing my family traditions. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to deeply appreciate the uniquely desi features of my family celebrations: garam masala baked chicken instead of the Thanksgiving turkey, homemade samosa chaat appetizers, family Uno games till 4 a.m., and Lindt chocolates instead of champagne at midnight. Wherever this holiday season may take you, remember to enjoy your friends, your family, and all of the things that make you who you are.

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