How to Survive the Stress of Holiday Family Feuds

Family sitting around table at a holiday dinner

The holidays are a time when families gather near and far to “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.” Does this sound too good to be true? Maybe, that’s because it probably is. Let’s be honest, the holidays can be a stressful time. It’s not all candy canes, eggnog, and kisses under the mistletoe as the hallmark specials would like us to believe.

There may be a lot of love in a room, but there can also be competing opinions, disapproving comments, long-held grudges, jealousy and resentment, as well as the occasional inappropriate uncle. This type of negative environment can not only ruin your holidays, but harm your health.

Six tips to keep you sane and stress-free this holiday season

    1. Learn to say “no” – To parties you don’t want to attend, to gift exchanges you don’t want to participate in, to demands to drink more and eat more, to unwanted house guests, to hosting the family brawl-fest.
    2. Avoid the same old mistakes – If every family gathering ends in cousin Tiffany drunk, or your sister and brother-in-law getting into a physical shoving match maybe it’s time to try another idea for a family gathering. It’s also ok if you decide this year to just make an appearance, and bow out gracefully before things get too crazy.
    3. Forgive and forget – Greet your family with an open heart, and give those who you have had disagreements with the benefit of the doubt. Try to resolve the conflict with courtesy and dignity. It’s family, so keep trying. Forgiveness allows you to begin the process of moving past the anger and resentment, which if you carry around too long can burn you. Anger is, after all, like acid. It only burns the container that holds it—which would be you. Let it roll off you, or you’ll be disfigured.
    4. Be prepared for conflict – Don’t expect miracles when it comes to years of dysfunction, but maybe everyone can agree that certain topics are off limits this year (maybe its politics). You may want to elect a “topic monitor” – someone who can humorously wave a red flag announcing that someone has brought up a “hot topic” that’s off limits (if you have kids do this, it can be fun, and keep the adults on their toes!)
    5. Step away from the drama – Remember what the holidays are all about, and it’s not drama. There’s always someone at a family gathering that acts as safeguard or cushion that can help you shift your focus away from the negativity. Take a walk with that person and chill out. In some instances, you may realize that it’s necessary to avoid a toxic gathering all together, and you decide not to go – that’s also ok.
    6. Exercise dailyNo excuses will be heard when you belong to a gym that is open 24/7/365. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Your endorphins are a drug you can’t live without, especially in dealing with family members you don’t get along with.

As the holidays approach, just remember to take a deep breath. Find time to reflect, increase your spirituality, give gratitude, and create merriment. Try to surround yourself with people that add to your wellness, nourish your soul, and bring meaning into your life.

What do you look forward to this Holiday season?

photo credit: mp3ief

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