Coping with Family Stress During the Holidays

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but it is not uncommon to have some stress about spending time with family members that get under our skin.

While we cannot control those around us, we can control how we react to others.

Here are some things to consider as you are mentally preparing for time with difficult family members:

  • Adjust expectations – Of course we all want time with our families to look like something you would see on the Hallmark channel, but this is not always the case. If you recognize that some family members are just not capable of getting along well with others, then don’t expect them to get along with others. This way, you are not setting yourself up to be disappointed. When we recognize others’ limits, we can better protect ourselves.
  • Plan ahead – Spend some time planning how you want to respond to expected triggers. For example, you may need to establish boundaries around what topics you will and won’t discuss with family (ex: politics, money, when you’re finally getting married/having a baby, etc.). But if you establish boundaries, it is very important that you stick to them. It can also be helpful to have an escape plan if you reach your limit.
  • Self-care plan – Build in time for yourself. It is important that you are able to recharge while with family. If you don’t, you are going to more likely react poorly when your buttons are pushed. Also, being intentional about taking care of yourself while with family means you may be less emotionally worn out when you leave.

Elizabeth Kraich

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