1. Write thoughtful, handwritten, personalized cards. Attach them to gifts, send them to your grandmother, even write a personal note to your boss. It’s the best way to not just let people know they are seen, but appreciated in your life.
2. Ask people what they got last year for the holidays. You will be shocked by how little they remember, and intrigued by what they do. It will show you how much stressing over gifts is a waste of the time you could be spending with those people.
3. Spend time with the people you see every day – not who you see once in awhile, out of obligation. Even if you still feel compelled to pop by the family party for your once-a-year visit, make sure more time, and more energy, and more physical things are given and exchanged with the people who are in your life every single day.
4. Stop assuming that it’s your job to correct or “inform” your ignorant relatives – it is not. They are probably as ignorant and misinformed as you assume (and then some) but not only is it not your job to police or correct others, a family gathering is an even more inappropriate place for that conversation than Facebook.
5. Give something to yourself. Whether it’s a few days off work, or a physical thing you’ve always wanted or needed, do something for yourself that is just as meaningful as you’d do for anybody else.
6. Make time to do what you most loved about the holidays as a kid. Whether it was baking cookies or sitting in the light of the tree/menorah/what-have-you, watching old movies… if there is any moment to relive your childhood, it’s now.
7. Forget about getting the “perfect gift,” it’s not a day to prove yourself, it’s a day to prove how much you care about someone. Often when we focus on getting the “perfect gift,” it’s not out of love but anxiety that we’ll be seen as incompetent or inefficient. If you imagine focusing on how to prove you care about someone, the stress will dissolve, and you’ll almost instantly know what you should do for them.
8. Make a meal for someone you love. Despite it being the season for freeloading, make a celebratory meal by yourself, and share it with people you may not otherwise see on the holidays themselves.
9. Start your own traditions. Paint ornaments, have the first annual gathering at your place, create a signature dish, decorate your home in a certain way, volunteer for the morning.
10. Be present with people you love for more time than you spend shopping for presents. Take mental snapshots more than you do iPhone pictures. Wrap people in hugs more often than you wrap things in paper. Spend more time talking and reconnecting and giving than you do walking and spending. Be present.