Surviving Family Holiday Stress

6 Tips for Coping with Family Stress During the Holidays


Does the thought of family holidays provoke feelings of anxiety? Follow these six tips to reduce stress, avoid arguments and have a happier holiday season.


Side-step conflict. Although we can't control how other people behave, we can decide how we will respond. If you have trouble getting along with a certain family member, take steps to avoid situations that promote conflict. Don't engage in arguments or conversations that are likely to promote disputes. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, and make sure you get plenty of sleep to help regulate your mood. If you find yourself getting roped into a troublesome interaction, find an excuse to exit the situation and don't return until things have calmed down.


Think in moderation. Many people have trouble turning off their minds, especially when they feel burdened by holiday stress. When we ruminate over obligations and upcoming family gatherings, we put our bodies in a constant state of fight or flight. This increases stress, diminishes sleep quality and takes a toll on our physical health. If you find yourself obsessing over your holiday to-do list or potentially uncomfortable family gatherings, try to use mindful meditation to keep yourself focused on the now.


Meditate. Studies have shown that mindful meditation can reduce anxiety, depression and insomnia. Research suggests it may even be able to reduce blood pressure, chronic pain and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, while easing specific psychological disorders. Not sure how to meditate? Simply find a quiet place and focus on your physical senses, which can help anchor you in the present moment. Don't worry if your mind wanders; just gently bring it back to the moment as much as possible. The more you meditate, the easier it becomes, so try to set aside at least ten minutes a day to practice.


Maintain your usual routine. Because the human mind finds comfort in a reliable routine, any disruption is likely to increase stress. While the holidays are bound to create new responsibilities and schedule disruptions; you should try your best to keep up your usual routine. This means exercising regularly and eating a normal diet. You should also go to bed and get up at the same time every day, since poor sleep has been shown to increase stress, anxiety and depression.


Rein in your expectations. It's common for people to have an idealized vision of what the holidays should be. Unfortunately, the real world isn't like the movies, where everything fits into place and all problems are solved within the standard two-hour run-time. Try to remember that nobody has a perfect holiday or ideal family. Accept things as they are and try not to stress if some unexpected event complicates your plans.


Share your feelings. When we keep our emotions bottled up, the pressure tends to grow. If the holiday season has dredged up lingering issues between you and one or more family members, consider seeking family counseling to help work through your issues and learn healthy ways to cope with conflict. If the family member is resistant to this idea, you can still meet with a therapist by yourself to develop healthy communication, relationship and coping skills.


Our caring therapists can help you and your family communicate better. Contact us today!