Tips to Make the Holidays Less Stressful
For some the holidays are a time of joy and closeness. For others, family gatherings are the greatest source of stress. Unhappy childhood memories, toxic relatives, and worn-out traditions are just a few of the factors that can make the holidays stressful. This year, consider doing things differently by taking more control of the holidays rather than getting sucked into a negative family vortex.
Begin by examining what specifically troubles you about the holidays. For example, traditions can connect us, but if they no longer work for you they can be immensely frustrating. Consider doing a simple pros-and-cons analysis of what stresses you out, and think about doing some things differently this year. Keeping things simple, but meaningful, can help you cut through the insanity of the season. In addition, consider the following tips to make things less stressful:
Set Realistic Expectations:
First, consider what is realistic for you, and respect what others think is realistic for them. You are going to feel frustrated if you don’t consider more of what you want rather than what others expect of you.
Communicate Openly, Directly, and Respectfully:
Remember that others can’t read your mind. Communicate your plans, and where they differ from the family expectations (and traditions), explain why you need to change things for yourself. People may express some unhappiness with your decision, but taking care of yourself during this stressful season will enable you to focus on the relationships and traditions that are truly meaningful to you.
Address Issues Calmly:
The behavior of certain relatives may drive you up the wall. Take some time to think about how you have reacted emotionally to them in the past or how you have let them get under your skin. Now consider how you could respond in ways that are protective of you while respectful of them.
Find Ways to Take Care of Yourself:
You have a right to do whatever you need to do to support yourself, as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others.
Finally, consider seeking some therapy well in advance of the holidays if you feel stuck.
Happy holidays to you and your family!
–Jeffery L. Santee, Ph.D.
This article was originally published in the Summit Clinical Services newsletter, At the Summit Issue 10 | Fall 2013. To view additional newsletters, click here.