6 More Ways to Beat Stress

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Survive Annoying Relatives
You’re particularly worried that your older brother will act like your older brother. E-mail him before the get-together. Keep it in the first person. Accept any responsibility there is to accept (so he doesn’t get defensive), and just say that you’re looking forward to seeing him, you want it to be fun, and you’d like to find some time to talk. You’ve just managed to slash the tension, says Alan Manevitz, M.D., a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

As for when your brother/father/mother/uncle says something about you that you don’t appreciate, and you can’t take any more, and ripping into that person would be really, really bad . . . go to the bathroom. You’ll get 5 minutes of privacy in the tile-and-porcelain oasis to remind yourself that you don’t live in this house anymore and these people are a temporary condition.

Splash cool water on your face and suck on some peppermint candy. Both are stimulating and distracting, says Richard O’Connor, Ph.D., author of Undoing Perpetual Stress and a psychologist in New York City and Canaan, Connecticut. Then flush and return to the fray a better man.

Sidestep the Holiday Blues 
The sense of isolation usually hits hardest right after New Year’s, after all the socializing is over. Before the holidays, make plans for January, O’Connor says. You’ll have something to look forward to as you’re sitting in the bathroom sucking on peppermint, reminding yourself you don’t live there anymore.

A trip might be the remedy, and it’ll be cheap. Good airline and hotel deals can be found the first week in January, says Kanov, since no one is thinking of traveling then—and island resorts don’t stay open on hope. 

Don’t Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” 
Sure, it’s tradition . . . but you want it to stop. Don’t just groan and say it’s stupid. That will only upset whoever loves the tradition, probably The Mom. Propose a new one—a Scrabble tournament, a snowball fight, anything with a little more interaction and a little less suicide.

Or you could just talk. If there’s not much of a precedent for that, start with topics that can involve everyone. What was your first boss like? What was the first thing you wanted to be when you were a kid? What is your earliest memory? What was life like for the family back in the Old Country? How did Uncle Zach meet the Ziegfeld girl he married? You’ll learn something about the older relatives’ lives, and they’ll fill in the gaps in yours, Dr. Manevitz says.

A few planning rules: Keep it light and fun. No directives. No orders. No chores. And don’t supervise the proceedings or have preconceptions of what’s supposed to happen. If the goal is to talk and everyone’s talking, mazel tov.

Dodge the Holiday Weight Gain
First, a reality check. If you absolutely gorge yourself on the Thanksgiving and Christmas vittles, you’re looking at a huge gain of . . . 2 pounds. So enjoy the pie and stuffing and pie and pie and stuffing pie. If you restrict it to just those two big meals, you have no worries.

But if self-discipline isn’t your forte, the challenge becomes the waistland between the holidays, with all the parties and foods just sitting around the office, making it easy to scarf down 1,000 extra calories a day and gain 7 to 10 pounds before the new year, says Heidi Skolnik, team nutritionist for the New York Giants.

The solution? Eat a sensible snack—nuts, yogurt, or half a turkey sandwich with tomato—before you hit the parties so you won’t feast like you’ve just been rescued from a plane wreck. Stand away from the food tables. And socialize hard: When you’re talking, words are coming out of your mouth instead of a dozen more bacon-wrapped mini hot dogs going in.

Hit All the Parties (Politely) 
Say you receive four invites, want to hit all four bashes, but obviously can’t stay till the ball drops at all of them. (And maybe you and your lady just want to go home and ring in the new year with a bigger bang.) How do you make brief appearances without offending the hosts?

Follow the lead of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper—for politicians are the masters at leaving parties with an effortless smile: “As soon as you arrive, find the host and say, ‘I didn’t want to miss this, but I can only stay for 15 minutes.’ They’ll be more appreciative than if you stayed for 3 hours, ate all their food, drank all their alcohol, and left at 11:30.”

And make sure you go light on the booze—you’re traveling, after all. One last schmoozing tip: Ask questions and listen. “I feel that I’ve connected and learned something,” says the mayor.

Catch the Bowl Games that Count 
 Watching a bowl game on New Year’s Day is a terrific tradition—but six? If your favorite team plays, slap on a coat of face paint and roar. But if you just want some good ball, go with the SEC, a consistently intense conference, says Bill Curry, ESPN’s college-football analyst.

If they’re matched up against the Big Ten, even better. “The ‘Old South’ still has a bit of an inferiority complex, and the only way to whup on the Yankees is football,” he says.

If time is limited, watch the opening kickoff and the first two possessions to see how sharp the teams are. Catch the first 10 minutes of the third quarter to see how the teams responded to halftime, and then, if drama brews, commit to the fourth.