Five Ways to Survive the Holidays: Experts Give Advice

By Bri Corley

‘Tis the season for endless shopping, awkward family conversations at the dinner table and treading the middle ground of enjoying your winter break while preparing for the spring semester ahead. Although the University of Maryland’s month-and-a-half-long winter break gives us plenty of time to relax, the stress of “the most wonderful time of the year” doesn’t hold back on students. 

On Dec. 1, 200 UMD students were surveyed about the biggest cause of stress during the holidays. With the results, experts were asked to give helpful advice that could help ease these stresses for the student body as a whole. With these tips and tricks, your winter break may be less naughty and much more nice. 

  1. Seasonal Spending and Budgeting 

In the survey, over 57% of students said that budgeting money is one of the largest stressors during the season.  “The idea of spending a large lump of cash in a short amount of time for a dozen people hurts my spirit and soul,” said junior Jay Rojas, whose main source of income while at school is a hostess job at Looney’s Pub, in the survey. Rojas can be viewed as one of the lucky ones, as dozens of students surveyed said their classes and extracurriculars doesn’t allocate time for a job. However, according to UMD finance professor Karen Hallows, stress can be relieved by focusing less on the pressure for presents. 

“My first thought and only thought on budgeting for the holidays is to keep it simple. I think it’s about a student’s perception of expectations of themselves that causes the stress,” said Hallows in an email.  “When a person is in school, they most likely don’t have the finances to buy the presents they would want to buy. Keep it simple and give something of yourself rather than buy something.”

Hallows knows the value of bonding and experience over material gifts firsthand. She went on to say that on Thanksgiving, her granddaughter spent time making pies with her and that her time and attention towards her grandmother was “one of the best gifts she could have given me.” 

  1. Keeping Conversations Light and Jolly

One nightmare for students during the holidays is family interaction gone awry.

“My family is dysfunctional, so holidays can get stressful,” sophomore Julia Garcia said in the survey.

From your loud aunt talking about who she is voting for to the judgemental eyes going toward someone’s dinner date, interactions with family can become awkward in an instant. 

Etiquette author Lizzie Post said in an email that the key to having a comfortable dinner conversation is setting boundaries ahead of time.

“You can set expectations before the meal even begins,” Post said. “Say something like, ‘It has been a really interesting year for everyone, and I would like to ask that we not talk politics. We all have a lot to catch up on and connect over.’”

Post also stresses that positivity and politeness are key, but remain firm if people try to skew the conversation off the rails. When that does happen, bring the conversation back to something personal and positive, such as a vacation someone went on or somebody’s new job. By discussing someone’s personal successes, offending another family member is much more unlikely. 

  1. Preventing Kitchen Catastrophes 

Classic holiday dinners differ slightly depending on the occasion, but they have the same core aspects –a large turkey or ham, an abundance of sides and dozens of desserts. With so many things going on in the kitchen, it can be easy for disaster to ensue. However, with just a few tips to keep in mind while cooking, your food preparation can simmer down to something doable.

  • Turkey should be cooked based on weight, according to Delish. If it is an unstuffed turkey, you should cook it for about 15 to 17 minutes per pound. If it is stuffed, then cook it for 20 to 22 minutes per pound. 
  • Always go for unsalted butter in a recipe unless specified otherwise. Chris Morocco of Bon Appetit said that using good unsalted butter allows for more control in salt content, as different brands of salted butter may have varying amounts of salt that could throw off your recipe’s taste.
  • Want to bring a dessert to dinner but don’t know what’s simple and delicious? “Make a chocolate cake,” Morocco said. “That is the perfect dessert. There is no better. Bring cake!”
  1. Springing into Spring Semester

A stressor many students in the survey named was preparation for the upcoming semester while still trying to enjoy your break. For some, this is one of the only times they can spend with their family during the year, but they can’t be fully invested due to concern over the next part of their college career. Lisa Kiely, assistant dean for undergraduate studies at UMD, said in an email that this time should be one of reflection and preparation for the spring, but not stress.

“If folks are discouraged with their work once the semester is over, it’s a good time to take stock,” Kiely said. “Rather than approaching the new semester with the same habits, review what happened before. Talk to faculty or staff or other students and tell them how you studied, how you prepared for tests, etc. Ask them for advice. Without reviewing what you did and making changes, you might end up with the same results.”

  1. Rest, Reset and Relax

No matter what your stress may be during winter break, the best piece of advice is to enjoy your time away from College Park and use it as a time to reset and start the new year on the right foot. Take care of yourself, see friends from home, spend quality time with your family and just make sure you recuperate from a stressful fall semester. 

“Just enjoy being home,” sophomore Alexandra Macia said in the survey. “The semesters can get super stressful so reminding yourself that the break is well deserved can help.”

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pixabay.

Bri Corley is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at briacorley@gmail.com.

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