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Managing Family Stress During the Holidays

A few simple tips to make a big difference at stressful family gatherings during the holidays

Article by Marcey Heschel

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Cypress Lifestyle

Time with family or in-laws can be difficult anytime of year, but the holidays bring a certain kind of stress that must be managed so we don’t implode from anything other than too much turkey.


We all have that one family member that wears on our last nerve. That person can make an otherwise enjoyable festive dinner excruciating.


Here are my top tips to survive difficult family festivities.


1. Disconnect your buttons
Anticipate being triggered by a comment or someone’s behavior. Someone might push your buttons, but you can disconnect them. Their behavior is about them, and your response is about you. Stay calm and avoid an unfavorable emotional reaction that you may regret later.

2. Make a game plan
Plan your arrival time and departure time. Plan how many drinks you will have. Plan a few easygoing topics to discuss if things feel tense. Having no plan can be a recipe for disaster.


3. Choose a trigger word
Anticipate feeling triggered and be proactive. Choose a word with your spouse or trusted family member that will signal when you need to go outside for some fresh air and to regroup. This word can also signal that it’s time to start planning your exit and end to the night.

4. Manage your expectations
The same in-law who irritated you last year will be sure to do it again. Don’t expect a Christmas miracle. Remember that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Recognizing this will help you plan how to deal with your irritation so that it doesn’t consume you. Remember that your power lies in what you can control, and all
you can control is how you respond to people and situations that get on your nerves.

5. Stay away from gossip and difficult topics
Be it religion and politics, or your cousin’s new tattoo, when it comes to
controversial topics, you’re better off to stay neutral. Keeping it light can prevent an uncomfortable, unnecessary conflict or fight.

6. Count your drinks or don’t drink at all
Consuming too many candy-cane martinis can throw all good intentions out the window. Alcohol makes it much more difficult to manage emotions and to control responses. If you want to ensure that you’re on top of your game, be proactive in
choosing whether to, or how much to drink.

7. Practice Gratitude

If you get to spend time with family or have family to spend time with, count yourself blessed. Many people find themselves alone throughout the holidays. Sometimes practicing gratitude will help you be tolerant enough to look for the good in family members and forget the rest, even if just for a night.

Wishing you a safe and stress-managed holiday season!

Marcey Heschel