With Christmas just two weeks away, it’s not so much the shopping, the unwrapped gifts, decorating the tree, or planning the holiday meal that gets folks stressed out during this time of year…many would say that it’s family overload!
The thought of dealing with Aunt Sue’s incessant talking, Uncle Bob’s silly jokes, cousin Bonnie’s endless complaining, and mom’s constant questions about when she will become a grandmother can create a whirlwind of anxiety even before the guests have arrived!
So how does one cope with too much family time during the holidays? According to licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Gary Hill, the best way to do so is to create a simple peace keeping plan in order to be prepared for any conflicts that could arise.
“The holidays can be challenging for many families,” says Dr. Hill, who is also a licensed marital and family therapist. “We’d all like to believe that holiday gatherings should be joyful and stress-free, but this isn’t always the case,” he says. “Family relationships are often complicated, but with a bit of pre-planning, the holidays don’t need to be a disaster.”
Below are just a few of Dr. Hill’s tips for a more peaceful holiday gathering with family.
It’s important to remember that nothing is perfect. The reality is that people do tend to get on each other’s nerves, and family members, especially, know exactly how to push each other’s buttons. Be prepared for what might take place and realize that you don’t need to respond as you may have responded in the past.
If you know that mom is going to ask questions about grandchildren, plan your response in advance and try to be as calm as possible. By doing so, you can avoid a knee-jerk reaction that can escalate tension.
Take a Stand
The holidays can make people feel out of control. They feel at the mercy of their relatives and sometimes feel steamrolled into doing things they may not want to do simply because it’s a “family tradition.” It’s important to remember that you have a say and can speak up. Going with the flow is fine, but not if it makes you feel uncomfortable. You have a choice.
Change Your Outlook
Instead of dreading the family gathering and assuming the worst, consider challenging your assumptions. What would happen if you enjoyed the holidays differently this year and broke some of the family traditions that created stress and anxiety. Don’t do things just because that’s how they’ve always been done. Maybe it’s time to do something different.
Don’t Expect Miracles
If your holiday anxiety is due to a history of family conflict, don’t expect that everything will suddenly be resolved. Yes, the holidays are a time for forgiveness and good will, but it’s important to have realistic expectations of what will be. Dr. Hill’s advice? It’s much better to focus on your own state of mind during the holidays and consider confronting difficult issues at a different time of the year.