The holidays can be a great time for family to come together and share memorable moments. Unfortunately, for many people, these moments can turn into memorable nightmares. However, I have some helpful tips to help you get through the rest of this stressful season.
- Limit the holiday libations. Perhaps you grew up in a family that never touched alcohol or perhaps you grew up in a household where cocktail hour began at 5 pm and ended with last-man standing. In any case, you should be well-aware of the effects that liquor may have on family members. If Uncle Joe has a tendency to get confrontational and mom likes to bring up all of your past failures after a few drinks, then a cup of holiday cheer may not be so cheerful anymore. Make sure to let relatives know ahead of time that you are adopting a “No drinking” policy at your home this year and search the internet for some festive recipes that don’t include alcohol. Enjoy some cocktails responsibly in private, minus the family, if you would personally like to partake.
- Have an “Exit Plan.” If you find yourself traveling to the home of a problematic relative then try to make other accommodations. Staying in a hotel, vacation rental, or with a peaceful family member might be good alternatives. However, if these aren’t viable options for you then have an “exit plan” ready. If relatives begin an argument with you or another relative then plan to have a place to escape to. Go to the guest room and put on a good movie. Find a good place to take a walk. Head to a nice restaurant, diner, or coffee shop and spend some time on your laptop or reading a good book.
- Designate a personal “Support Person.” During stressful times it is important to have adequate social support. This could be a friend, partner, counselor, sponsor, or relative that you get along with. Make sure to let him or her know that you will be facing a difficult time and will temporarily need additional support. If they live nearby then make their home a refuge or have a meeting somewhere. If they are far away, then arrange a phone call or web-cam chat session. Talking about your problems with a trusted person can do wonders for relieving holiday-related stress.
- Choose your battles: If family fights come down to who gets to baste the turkey or light the first Hanukah candle, then consider backing down a little. Make sure to ask yourself, “Is this really worth arguing about?”
- Learn when to walk away: Set boundaries. If a relative becomes emotionally abusive then promptly remove yourself from the situation. If he or she becomes violent, then contact local authorities for assistance. Protecting yourself and other family members is the most important priority in these types of scenarios.
- Turn drama into healing: I am sure that you have heard this before, but communication is the key to resolving relational problems. Family gatherings can gather a lot of bad memories and past hurts. Perceive this as a much needed “wake-up call.” Facing holiday issues can be stressful, but ignoring them can perpetuate year-round distress. Consider sitting down with family members and trying to resolve problems. If you can’t solve these problems yourself, then think about the possible benefits of getting family counseling. Make sure to always give 110% to your family, but if they refuse to give 110% back, then don’t try to compensate for their lack of effort. Not doing everything for another person can give them a chance to develop autonomy and do things for themselves and others.
The holidays can be stressful. We all know this, but we can take guided steps to give ourselves some breathing room at least. They say you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. This is an inevitable truth. But, we can still choose how we react to family drama. Most importantly, find a way to be thankful in between the stress, and enjoy this wonderful season!