Holiday Togetherness Game Plan: 11 Tips for Taking a Time Out

Holidays and Special Days / Holidays and Special Days : Eleanor Haley

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Alright, let's have a quick pre-holiday huddle to discuss your game plan for tomorrow. Not where you're going to celebrate or what side dish you're going to bring, but what you're going to do if it all gets to be too much.

Big family celebrations can be overwhelming and, once you add the emotions of grief, they can be downright paralyzing. Sometimes even the most patient person, who loves being around family and friends, occasionally needs to take a breather from all the togetherness.

In anticipation of tomorrow's celebration, we'd like to offer you a few quick tips for taking a time out to relax, calm down, and refocus in under five minutes.

Find an Excuse to Slip Away and Have a Few Minutes of Peace and Quiet.

As a textbook introvert, I've mastered the art of getting away without anyone noticing. Sometimes all you need is just a teeny tiny break from all the stimulation! A word to the wise though: Don't disappear for too long if you don't want people asking 'Where have you been?'.  

Practice Deep Breathing.  

A quick way to calm down is to breathe slowly from your diaphragm. Try standing up and breathing in through your nose, holding it for a few seconds, and letting the breath out through your mouth. As you breathe, imagine you are filling up a balloon (in) and deflating it (out).

Listen to Music.  

Do you find there are certain songs that calm you down? When you feel yourself getting anxious, sneak off and listen to a few songs. You can use Spotify to create your own relaxing playlist, or to browse playlists according to your mood.

Have a Cup of Tea.  

Although chamomile and herbal tea are great, any type might work to help soothe the stress hormone.

Get Some Fresh Air. 

True it may be cold outside, but breathing in that fresh air can help give you a change of perspective and reinvigorate you. Plus sunlight boosts serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating appetite, sleep, memory, and mood.


Relax those muscles and release some of the tension that's been building up all day in your body. Roll your head from side to side, release the tension in your jaw by opening your mouth wide for a minute, touch your toes, or try tensing and relaxing your muscles one at a time from your head down to your toes.

Find Gratitude.  

If you feel yourself starting to slip into negativity and sadness, look around for one or two things to be grateful for.

Recognize What You Can and Can’t Control.

Try not to get stuck on the negative aspects of your holiday that you can't change, but take advantage of those that you can. You can't control the fact that the holidays are different now that your loved one is gone, but you can try and focus on the things that still manage to make you feel happiness and comfort.  Just like you can't force your uncle to stop rambling on about his enraging political beliefs, but you can choose to leave the room and walk away from an anxiety-provoking situation.

Hang With the Kids.

Are there kids underfoot? As someone who frequently walks away from the grown-ups to quietly color or sit on the swings with the kids, I can personally attest to the benefits of escaping the adult world for a little play. Bonus: If the kids are outside kicking the soccer ball or throwing around a football, you get the added stress releasing benefits of exercise. No joke, taking a few minutes to play can be a great pick-me-up and may be exactly the break you need.

Lock Yourself In the Bathroom.

Sometimes it's the only viable escape route! Lock the door behind you, sit for a few minutes, close your eyes, and take deep breaths.


Laughter increases blood flow and can help you to reset a negative attitude. So go hang out with your funniest aunt, tell a funny story, or—my personal favorite—watch a funny Youtube video.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

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4 Comments on "Holiday Togetherness Game Plan: 11 Tips for Taking a Time Out"

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  1. Suzanne Utts  December 12, 2019 at 1:21 pm Reply

    Last year, 2-1/2 years into my widowhood, my 2 daughters told me that they and their families would be traveling to Europe to visit their husbands’ families for Christmas week. I was asked if I would watch their dogs. I really didn’t mind that they were going to visit their in-laws as both of my sons-in-laws parents are in their 80s and not well. So when people at church found out I was going to be alone, some invited me for dinner or for an evening. Thus, I spent Christmas with 3 little dogs and a number of sweet friends. Taking into consideration that I have only lived in this community for 5 years, I felt blessed at the number of invitations I received. So far this year, I am getting invitations again. I discovered that family is not just through DNA. It is through people who love to be together. Also I volunteered to be a door-greeter at church during one of the services for Christmas Eve.

    I feel that I have come a long way from the first set of holidays after Chuck died. I still miss him so much, but I know that he would want me to enjoy family and friends and remember that Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

  2. Walter Nance  November 26, 2019 at 7:41 am Reply

    Im having a Thanksgiving get together with an expected 21 people its a new house i purchased with my sister after the loss of my partner 2 ywars next month. At this tumw i thaught i would be feeling better, it just seems wores. I plan on backing out and not being there

  3. Peggy Lukacsko  November 25, 2015 at 5:25 pm Reply

    We scattered my sister’s ashes today. We had tears and laughter, wine and chocolate, and a ceremonial burn in the fire pit. I feel cleansed and believe that tomorrow is going to be joyful.

  4. Beth Marshall  November 29, 2014 at 4:06 pm Reply

    Love this Holiday Togetherness Plan. So much practical goodness. My personal favorite is hanging out with the kids – and building Lego creations.
    Great post- will definitely remember these at Christmas time.

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