Dealing with Family Stress During the Upcoming Holidays

November 30th, 2016 in Family Counselling

While many people look forward to the December holiday season, others look at it with feelings of dread. Large family gatherings, tricky family dynamics and expectations of what the holidays should entail are all things that can contribute to stress during the season. Being mindful of how we approach and react in situations during the holidays can help to alleviate stressful situations. 

Here are 5 quick tips to put in to practice:

Think about expectations. Often times we focus on what we think the holiday season should be rather than letting it unfold as it is. Be aware of pre-conceived expectations, and don’t let it cloud your view. You may be missing out on some wonderful new memories in the making.

Practice visualizations. Prior to any family gathering where there may be conflict or stress, practice visualizing how you want the day to go. Do not focus on what could happen, but rather what you would like the day to look like. Sometimes dysfunctional behaviours are rooted in memories of the past, and by visualizing the future, you can change how you will react to certain situations.

Make a plan. Practice your visualizations with a plan in mind. Decide how you want to contribute to the conversation, where to sit and what you want to feel during your family functions. If you are hosting a holiday function, strategize accordingly by creating a comfortable seating plan or arranging for games or topics of conversation to lead the day. Consider how you will moderate if a uncomfortable situation occurs and even plan an exit strategy if things become too toxic.

Don’t take it personally. While you may have expectations regarding the holidays, other family members may have differing expectations. Try to observe and pause before reacting to situations. Often times a pregnant pause can be enough space for you to gather your thoughts before a knee-jerk reaction contributes to a toxic environment.

Be flexible. Even though you may have anticipated and prepared for the holidays, you cannot always know what may happen. Potentially there could be events or words said that still hurt, so be prepared to roll with the events. Allowing for recovery time after any family function will help you debrief and unwind.