The holidays are magical. The lights, the songs, the trees, the joy on children’s faces. All priceless.

That holiday magic comes with a price, of course. Every parent knows that. Someone has to decorate those trees, bake those perfectly decorated gingerbread cookies, pick up the in-laws from the airport, mail those letters to Santa, shop for those presents, wrap them lovingly, and attend all those holiday fairs and plays.

The holidays can quickly become its own type of stress, with overwhelming commitments and anxiety. With so much to do and think about, it’s easy to put our friends — our confidantes, our supporters, our sources of advice — at the end of our holiday to-do lists.

It’s also tempting for the holidays to become more like a competitive sport with Pinterest and toy catalogues as the rule books. (I admit to feeling lazy, jealous, and inadequate occasionally when I see Facebook friends’ pictures of holiday perfection.)

We think that all of this — friendship neglect as well as holiday envy and competition between friends — are big mistakes.

Here are 5 tips for how to get through the holidays, while also honoring and strengthening your friendships. We asked our HerStories Project book contributors — all friendship experts in their own right! — for their advice.

1. DO cut your friends a bit of slack during the holidays. Contributor Nina Badzin says this could be as simple as refusing to read into perceived slights. Nina’s advice: “If a friend doesn’t respond to a text, think ‘she’s super busy’ instead of ‘she’s ignoring me.'”

Similarly, contributor Jessica Vealtizek describes how she and her friends “don’t keep score” about who owes whom a phone call or a text….”As in, who cares who called whom last, or who owes who a call, etc. If you’re friends, it doesn’t matter,” Jessica said.

Vicky Willenberg has started doing something similar with her friends. “I am consciously making an effort to have extra grace as my friends and I are all really busy this time of year so we can’t make plans and check in as easily,” she said. “Second, I am making a huge effort to text 1-3 friends each day just to say hi, have a great day, acknowledge something specific I know they have going on or just to say something I love about them.”

2. DO find a small gift that reflects your feelings and knowledge about your friend. 

Contributor Alexa Bigwarfe sends her best friend, who lives in France, a small gift that reminds her of her friend. Galit Breen wrote a terrific article this week about small acts of kindness for your friends. Galit suggests giving your girlfriend her favorite treats or bringing a container of a wonderful meal that you’ve made to your friend at her house or work.

Contributor Alexandra Rosas shares one small way that she shows her best friend that she cares: “I know that my BFF IRL loves McCafe French Vanilla Lates, so every Sunday morning on the way to church, I pick one up for her. She counts on it and it always thrills her to just roll out of bed and have a home coffee delivery Sunday mornings.”

And I love this idea from Galit: Give your friend a photo. Galit writes, “Moms are rarely in pictures. You can fix that problem for your girlfriend! Snap a photo of her in action with her children or husband and send it to her. You can even edit the photo, but a text photo in the raw is perfection!”

3. DO give and accept help. 

At some point or another, many of us get overwhelmed during the holidays. An important work assignment, sick kids, a serious illness in the family… All of these can push this time of the year and its obligations and traditions from busy and meaningful to stressful and difficult. Take friends up on their offers of help can strengthen your friendships, as well as lighten the load.

“Accepting an offer of help can sometimes make you feel vulnerable, but that’s okay and even important with friends,” according to contributor Shannan Ball Younger. “One time I announced to a friend that I had finished a project that she had offered to help me with. I thought she’d be relieved that I had done it myself and instead, she was disappointed. I’ll never forget that she said, ‘I really would have loved to have been of help to you.’ I missed a golden friendship opportunity that would have benefited both of us.”

4. DON’T plan events that cause additional stress to your friends.

Getting together with your friends can be a terrific way to take a break from family holiday chores. But don’t make these events another reason to spend a lot of time and money. Focus instead on getting together and catching up.

Contributor Allison Carter has a few suggestions: “Have a party where it is expressly forbidden to bring anything that ISN’T store bought – prepared food and things in bottles. Also, a few of my girlfriends and I get together at the mall on weekday evening, do Christmas shopping together (we each come with our lists!) then treat ourselves to drinks and a late dinner out afterwards. My gals and I don’t demand appearance at every single party – we allow each other to say NO, then we spend time emailing or talking on the phone, laughing about the stress.”

5. DO give our book to your friends! We think that our HerStories Project book is the perfect gift to share with friends. It’s a great conversation starter for discussing and thinking about your own friendship. Talk about which of the stories and the women are most relevant to your relationships.

What are some ways that you show your friends that you care during the holidays?

Don’t forget to come to our Twitter party tonight, Tues., Dec. 10 from 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Follow us at @herstoriestales and use the hashtag #herstoriestales. You could win a copy of our newly released book: The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship!

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