The holidays are a time of fun, a time of feast and most of all, a time of family. So why, as soon as you start hearing ho-ho-ho songs on the radio, do you start to cringe? It doesn’t help when you get calls from relatives asking if you’re coming and what you’ll be bringing to the Christmukkah party this year. Of course, the real question is: How are you going to survive being in a room, playing happy, with the people who stress you out most—your family?

The ho-ho season is stressful on so many levels, so how can you beat the family holiday stress? Finding a way to escape it altogether may seem easier than fake-grinning your way through it, but you can only have so many migraines, flus, colds, and my-kid-is-sick excuses before your family clues in. 

The good news is that there are ways to get through the holidays without ostracizing yourself to a safe corner, hanging off your husband all evening, or sitting by yourself in a bundle of nerves, scheming about how to get out of there without being too obvious. In fact, you can go so far as to make the best of family holiday gatherings. You may even enjoy yourself this year, using these tried and true tips.

HOW TO BEAT FAMILY HOLIDAY STRESS

Ready: Make A Mindset Choice

Our thoughts become our actions. So first, you have to decide you’re going to have a good time. Choose not to play the ignore-people game and ignore your differences instead – at least for now. Plan how to handle unexpected conflict. Suggest to park it. This is neither the time nor the place for it. Practice smiling and walking away in your mind, or saying the words, “Let’s visit this after the holidays. I want us both to have a good time.”

Set: Check Your Airs At The Door

Before entering the family gathering, think positive, relax your muscles, and breathe. Smiling, approach those who make you most nervous, and say hello. By getting the awkwardness out of the way, you’re dismissing that pink elephant in the room before it makes itself known to everyone. You’re also paving the way for the next few hours to go smoothly – not so much for them, but for you.

Go: Get The Job Done

Spend the rest of the get-together surrounded by those who make you feel most comfortable. With those who don’t, stick to easy topics—work, kids, vacations—whatever is on your happy list. Sip a little wine if it calms your nerves but not too much that you get fired up. You may even want to call out Cheers to your family, while secretly patting yourself on the back for a job well done.

Happy Holidays, and Good Luck!  (But you won’t need it.)

photo credit: docpop via photopin cc

About the author

Lauren Millman

Lauren Millman is a Professional Certified Coach, Counsellor, Interventionist and Behaviourist, in private practice in Toronto. She writes for business organizations and e-magazines, and is a regularly featured expert on Rogers Daytime and CTV. Lauren is all about keeping it real, and thinking outside the box to help you get-your-happy-on. She's married with three kids, is a self-confessed coffee snob, and believes you can't own too many pairs of shoes.

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