“A merry heart does good like medicine.”
The truth is family visits can be stressful, especially during the holiday season. Yes, it’s great to see some family members during the holidays; however… some family members may be a bit challenging. Regardless, the holiday season typically comes with some level of anxiety, especially if you are hosting a family gathering.
So, how can you figuratively and literally survive family visits during the holiday season? Is it even possible? Yes, it is! The key to surviving holiday family visits is to be patient, accept what you can and cannot do, plan ahead, gather a strong support system to help you if or when the “going gets rough,” and… drum roll, please… practice self-care.
In other words, make sure your needs are not dismissed or neglected during this crucial time. If you’re tired and worn-out due to a lack of rest and/or a poor diet, your temper, patience, energy, and mindframe will also be poor. In other words, you’ll become easily annoyed and upset at everyone and everything.
The good news is the holiday season doesn’t have to be anxiety-provoking or depressing, no; it could actually end-up being some of your best memories all year! All you have to do to minimize stress with your family is follow the awesome tips listed in this article!
Help is on the way!
How to Survive Family Visits During The Holidays
Listed below are ways to reduce or manage the stress of holiday family visits:
Go to Church
A good way to survive family visits during the holiday season is to go to church. Your church or one nearby may even host a special candlelight Christmas service. A church service can help ease your stress and calm your mind, so you’re better equipped to deal with anything that pops-up during the visits.
It’s also a good way to help you reconnect with a higher power, so you feel supported by something or someone greater than yourself. Lastly, going to church helps you remember why we celebrate Christmas – the birth of Christ. Thus, it’s a wonderful way to congregate with others, while being thankful for your blessings.
Note: If possible, ask and encourage your family members to attend church with you. The holiday season, especially because Christmas is a time of unconditional love and support, forgiveness, unity, and celebration. So, celebrate the birth of humanity with your loved ones in a place created just for Him!
In other words, don’t expect family members, who have never been easy to get along with to start behaving differently this year. Also, don’t expect family members, who have never gotten along to start holding hands and singing “Kum Ba Ya”– because it probably won’t happen. So, what can you do in this situation?
First, accept that things may not go as you hope. This may be hard to do, but it’s the only way you will survive family visits during the holiday season. Keep in mind that family visits like family members don’t have to be perfect for you to have amazing holiday visits. All you need to do to keep these visits pleasant is to accept that people will be people, no matter what you say or do.
So, try keeping things light during the visits. Number #1 rule – Stay far away from political and social issues. Nothing evokes the ire of family members like talking about controversial issues. It can cause a happy visit to turn sour in a matter of minutes. So, stay away from these topics during these times.
But, what if family members bring them up? Then, nod and quickly change the subject. Keep changing the subject until they get the message – you don’t want to discuss these things during your visit. If that doesn’t work, politely remove yourself from the situation.
Don’t, however, become frustrated, angry, or upset at your family members – if you can help it. Use every interaction as an opportunity to grow as a person, and as a family member – even if it’s hard.
Deep Breathe & Practice Mindfulness
You’d be naïve to think, that something wouldn’t happen that rattles you during your holiday visits with family members. So, what should you do when that happens? Practice deep breathing and mindfulness. What is mindfulness and how do you practice it? Mindfulness is a state-of-mind – a form of meditation. You practice it by going somewhere quiet and private, sitting down, taking a couple of deep breaths to center yourself, and conjuring-up positive images, words, or phrases.
Mindfulness helps you acknowledge your feelings and emotions during challenging situations, like a relative complaining that “you don’t come around anymore” or that your “mashed potatoes are dry,” without becoming angry or upset by the inconsiderate comments. The goal of mindfulness is to help you attain a calmer state-of-being, by replacing negative images and thoughts with happier and more peaceful and positive ones.
So, when something upsetting occurs during a family visit, briefly remove yourself from the situation (go to the restroom or an empty bedroom), take a few deep breaths, and practice mindfulness until you feel calmer. This will help you view the situation as a “causal onlooker” instead an angry or upset participant.
This takes practice, but once you master it, it will help you survive visits with family during the holiday season.
If you know a family visit is going to be challenging, plan ahead for it. In other words, think about what you’re going to talk about – in advance. For instance, if a family member is very political, think of ways to redirect his or her attention by bringing up less controversial topics.
If one family member doesn’t like another one, plan to visit each one separately, or if you’re having a family gathering try to keep each one busy doing separate tasks, like having one help in the kitchen, while the other one helps the kids with crafts, or sets the table for dinner.
The truth is a little planning can go a long way in easing your stress and keeping the peace in your family. So, do yourself a favor and plan ahead for family visits during the holiday season!
Note: If you are fixing meals for family visits, you may want to call ahead to your relatives to see if there are any dietary restrictions for them or their children, and to inquire about favorite foods, etc. Hopefully, this will make dinners more agreeable for everyone.
Try to Forgive!
This may be difficult, especially if you have been hurt or disappointed by these same family members in the past, but it’s important for your own survival – and sanity during holiday visits with family. Remember, the thing that makes the holiday season and Christmas so special is it’s a time for unity and forgiveness. So, try to let past hurts go and look at each year as a “new beginning” for you and them.
Note: Forgiving is more for you than the family members, who have “wronged” you in the past. In other words, let go of the cross you have been carrying on your shoulders since your fall-out with family.
Aren’t you tired of carrying around that tremendous weight? Yes! So, let it go by forgiving those, who have “wronged” you. Make that your Christmas present to them. Give yourself and them the gift that keeps on giving this Christmas. With the power of forgiveness and the Grace of God, you will survive these holiday visits!
Lastly, don’t forget to practice self-care because it’s important every day, but especially during the holiday season! Family visits don’t have to freak you out or cause you stress. No, the key to de-stressing from family visits during the holiday season is to focus on your happiness, health, and well-being.
What does that look like? It looks like making sure you are eating lots of healthy foods, getting enough rest, going to doctor’s appointments, spending time with positive people, who make you feel good, going on dates your with partner, practicing stress-management techniques, like deep breathing, mindfulness meditation and yoga, taking a hot bath every evening, sipping on an alcoholic beverage, egg nog, or hot chocolate after a stressful visit, devoting time for a spa treatment, getting regular exercise, etc.
Basically, do things that re-center you and spark joy in your life. This could even mean spending time alone doing what you want to do, or doing things that have been neglected during the holiday season like going shopping or spending time with friends or pets!
Note: You can’t be your best self if you’re unwell, tired, frustrated, or stressed, so don’t forget to practice self-care – before and after family visits!
If you find visits with family during the holiday season highly stressful, you’re not alone. In fact, research suggests that approximately 90% of people view this time of the year anxiety-provoking and approximately 24% of these individuals experience the most stress during holiday visits with family. Yikes! The good news is a little extra effort can go a long way before, during, and after these visits. In other words, going to church, being realistic, engaging in deep breathing and mindfulness meditation, planning ahead, forgiving, and practicing self-care can reduce your stress and help you survive holiday visits with loved ones! Happy Holidays!
- Shader, M. (2011). Americans’ top holiday dread—being nice makes the list. Consumer Report. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2011/11/americans-top-holiday-dreads-mdash-being-nice-makes-the-list/index.htm