5 Tips for Surviving Family Stress During the Holidays

5 Tips for Surviving Family Stress During the Holidays

During the holidays, a lot of families get together for food, fun, reminiscing­ — and maybe a touch (or more) of drama. Holiday gatherings can be stressful as old memories — good and bad — rise to the surface.

We’re typically busier during the holidays than we are at any other time of the year. This means stress levels are higher and we’re more likely to be upset by smart remarks, teasing, and negativity. In the midst of kids fighting, siblings sharing stories you wish everyone had forgotten, or family members engaging in behavior that drives you up the wall, you might ask yourself "Why is my family so ‘out there?’"

Here are some tips to survive the holiday season with your family:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don't give any more mileage to bad feelings. If you have some bad feelings about others, acknowledge those feelings are there, and maybe for a good reason, but decide not to let them grow.
  2. Set healthy boundaries. If there are things you’d set limits on with others at any other time of the year, set them during the holidays. Healthy boundaries will help reduce stress and give you a sense of control over your environment.
  3. Be sensitive to those around you. Statistically speaking, one in five people will suffer from a mental health condition this year in the U.S. In fact, Utah has the nation’s highest rate of mental illness. A lot of people struggle with the holidays — and they might be family members who don't want to talk about the extra stress or sadness they’re feeling. But be aware that the holidays can be especially stressful for some people, and be on the lookout to help someone around you.
  4. Have realistic expectations. Here’s the thing about families: You know a lot about each other — the good and the bad. Avoid the temptation to make a case against those who bother you and make an effort to see their strengths in addition to their weaknesses in order to keep a balanced view. Remember this: Everyone has something they’re battling.
  5. There’s some very real pain out there. If you find yourself in an emotionally abusive situation, you need to look for a healthier place to be. Families can come in all forms, so if relatives are distanced from one because of abuse or trauma, find your "family" with people who enhance your health and well-being.