How to survive family holidays

During the holiday season, we come together with friends and family in good cheer to sit down for delicious meals and gift-swaps. However, our stress level often rises during the holidays, primarily due to unrealistic expectations. We spend too much on gifts and create financial stress, we commit to too many obligations and create stress for our families, and we fret over seeing a particular relative and create social stress, and so on.


But we can lower anxiety, regain control and re- centre ourselves by using these strategies:

Just say no

The mental clutter that comes with keeping track of a busy family schedule can be a big source of stress. When you feel overwhelmed by commitments that don't really matter, say no with grace and ease. Saying no frees up the time and energy to say yes and fully show up for the moments that matter most to you.

Use humour

It's hard to feel nasty or say mean things when you're wearing a red nose. Humour is a wonderful tool for defusing a tense conversation or mood. Try this – buy some red noses and put one on each plate at the beginning of a meal. It may feel silly but it’s an excellent ice breaker and it’s pretty hard to feel nasty or say mean things when you have a red nose on.

Practice respectfulness

Don't damage your most important relationships by unloading stress onto those closest to you. Try to grow your levels of patience and understanding during trying times instead.

Manners matter even more when times are tough. Stress is the main cause of rudeness, but we can use the principles of etiquette — honesty, respect and consideration — to lower the volume on brash behaviour. Keep this in mind:

  • Expect others to be less patient and tolerant, and increase your own level of patience and understanding.
  • Be a good listener, and if you learn something private about another person, keep it confidential.
  • Try to share good news instead of doom and gloom. More optimistic conversations will create a positive mood.
  • Communicate often, keeping your immediate family in the loop about events and obligations and flagging commitments that may be stressful.

Have some perspective

If you're at your in-laws' house and you feel like you can't stand their back-handed compliments any longer, just remember: you’re not being held hostage, you're not in a prison and you’re going to leave at the end of the day.

Try to have as much fun as you can despite all the challenges. Take things in a lighter mood – it might be just as challenging for the rest of the family.


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