Holidays can be a time for joy but they can also highlight complicated family dynamics or lack of support that can make holidays unpleasant. And there are also some practical elements of planning your holidays. While some things are simply out of our control, here are some things that can help you manage the stress over the holidays.
Dealing with Family Stress
- Set boundaries ahead of time.
- Know family members’ limitations and anticipate any possible scenarios, think of how you would react to it. We don’t always become our best selves when we are emotionally charged.
- Being prepared for anything that could happen will help you handle the situation better than if you are upset and in the moment.
- Accept their shortfalls and hope they will do the same for you.
- Think of what may come up and try to plan for it ahead of time. For example, if you know that you have had conflict in the past with your mother in law, don’t wait for Christmas Day and hope it all works out, reach out to them ahead of time and try to bury the hatchet.
If you are feeling alone on the holiday, reach out to friends and family now rather than waiting for them to call you with plans. Your family unit does not need to necessarily consist of the nuclear family. If you don’t have support from your relatives, you can reach out to close friends.
Planning the holiday
There's a lot pressure to overextend ourselves. We want to give the perfect gift, making your home perfect for company, or prepare complex meals. Oftentimes, we create self-imposed demands.
- Allow yourself to have some shortcuts. Does everything need to be home baked? Remember that the purpose of the holiday is to spend time with one another, not to overdo yourself. Ask yourself, am I doing this because I enjoy it, or is it out of obligation, and does it have to be done?
- Give yourself a budget so you don’t add financial stress on top of everything else you have going on.
- Plan ahead so you can delegate and ask for help rather than later getting upset at family for making you take on more of the responsibility than you were comfortable with. By not managing our own expectations, we can end up feeling unappreciated and resentful. Spend more time enjoying things and less time doing things.
- When you’re feeling overwhelmed, practice a mindfulness exercise-close your eyes, focus on your breathing for 2 minutes or visualize your senses.
And remember, at the end of the day, it’s all about spending time with family and friends.