For so many people, the holidays are more a time of stress than they are a time of excitement or rest. More often than not, that stress is caused by family. It’s estimated that 25% of people are dealing with estranged family members around the holidays. Which is the equivalent of 70 million people. So, simply put, you aren’t alone if you are feeling stressed about being with, or even the idea of being with, your family this time of year. There’s no exact guide for dealing with family members who hurt your mental health because family relationships can be so complex. However, here are our tips on how to deal with family during the holidays to make them a little bit easier.
Why you may be feeling stressed
Before diving into the tips, we just wanted to take a moment to recognize why you are here, reading this article, on how to deal with family during the holidays. There are countless reasons why you may be feeling family and holiday stress, but Diane Dreher, a licensed psychologist, may account for at least one. As she explains, “No matter how far you’ve come or how much you’ve evolved, people often fall back into old family roles during the holidays, which can lead to conflict.” While not pleasant, it is most certainly common to experience stress and conflicts while visiting family during the holidays. With that being said, let’s get to the tips.
How to Deal With Family During the Holidays
Treat yourself to some extra self-care
Before, during, and after the holidays, you need to be taking care of your mental health.
Before you host or go home for the holidays, it’s important to take some extra steps to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like for you. Whether this is a whole day of pampering and skin care, doing an activity you love, bringing extra things with you to do that make you happy, etc.
During the holidays, there are things to do when you have time to yourself. You could bring a book, download shows to watch at night, or bring some small pampering items for when the day is over. One form of self-care can even be just taking a second to yourself to sit in silence and ground yourself again. You are your top priority around the holidays.
Focus on what is in your control
Focusing on what is in your control is a lot easier said than done, we know. However, something that can help in these situations is the understanding that you can only do so much when it comes to other people. You know them, more than you might want to, and you know what behavior and conversation to expect from them. You are not in control of changing it.
This knowledge is stressful to some, but it can be relieving for some people too. The only thing you need to worry about is what you can control: yourself. Your thoughts, actions, and reactions are the most important thing for you to worry about.
Don’t be afraid to step away
If you can safely take a minute to yourself, there’s no shame in doing so. The holidays are a time that overwhelms a lot of people, and needing to take time for yourself is a natural response to being overwhelmed, upset, or even just overstimulated in an environment. Do what is best for you, no matter what anyone else thinks. You are the most important thing to take care of, and that means keeping your emotional, mental, and physical health a priority during the holidays.
Use external resources to prepare
There are dozens of articles, videos, podcasts, and books that talk about how to handle these stressful holiday situations. We pulled some resources from this article on how to deal with difficult family members and family conflict that we think might help you too:
- Dr. Ramani talks about narcissism, toxic relationships, and family troubles, especially around the holidays, and how to navigate them. One of her shows you might like is Dr. Ramani’s holiday survival guide.
- Lindsay Gibson, a clinical psychologist, is the author of the self-help book Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents. Her expertise includes helping her people navigate difficulties stemming from emotionally
- And finally, Paul Krauss is a licensed therapist who runs the podcast, The Intentional Clinician, which talks about psychology and philosophy with other mental health professionals as guest appearances.
As you try and navigate this holiday season with your own family, we hope you take the time to take care of yourself first. You aren’t the only one experiencing hardships around the season, and there are things you can do to make it as tolerable as possible. Most importantly, remember that your biggest priority should be you, and your emotional, physical, and mental health.