It is that time of year again when everyone is getting prepared for the holiday season. We see images in the media indicating that everyone will spend time with their loving family members and escape from stress. Expectations are that we will experience joy in reconnecting with loved ones. And yet….

I often talk to people whose experiences of the holidays are more like “holi-daze.”  My clients often struggle being with family members with whom they have little in common. In addition, people dread spending time with those family members whose political or other beliefs are vastly different from their own. For many people, these holiday events are things to be endured but not enjoyed.

To help you have a different experience this holiday season, I am providing my holiday event survival tips that will help you remain more rational and, ideally, keep you from experiencing the “holi-daze.” They are grouped around the acronym: PEACE.

P: Plan. Create a plan for yourself in advance of how you will manage the event(s). Think about who will be there and how long you will be there. Consider how you can manage the situation(s). Is it better to arrive early or later? Is there also someone (friend, other relative) who will not be there but from whom you can get support? Sometimes knowing that you will be talking to a good friend after a stressful event can be a great way to deal with experiencing it. You can think to yourself, “I can’t wait to tell Mary about this.” This can help you to stay more rational.

E: Eat and drink in moderation. Be careful with overindulging while with family, especially regarding alcohol. So often, people turn to alcohol as a “stress relief” while with family. Remember that any amount of alcohol can leave you more disinhibited and therefore more likely to tell Uncle Charlie what you really think of him. Think about how you can moderate your intake so that you do not create unnecessary emotional vulnerability leading to behaviors that you may later regret.

A: Accept: Accept your family members for who they are. You may wish that your parents were somehow different. You may want your extended family to think the same way that you do. So many people set unrealistic expectations for a visit by not recognizing how they cannot change their family. Be realistic in what you can expect from others.

C: Choose. Consider the many choices that you have in being with family. You can choose how long you are there (if it is a day trip). You can choose taking breaks from family time by going for a walk or perhaps escaping to your room “for a nap.” Most importantly, you can choose where you sit at the table. Position yourself the furthest away possible from those family members you find most difficult.

E: Engage with others. If you are approaching an event with dread, you are going to miss whatever opportunities may exist during the event for enjoyment. Focus on what you can control. Find topics that are points of commonality with your relatives. Gently avoid (whenever possible) engaging in those topics that are sure to bring frustration or stress. Remember that it takes two to fight. You do not have to respond to provocations on the part of relatives. Sometimes the rule that Mom taught me is what is best: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” When possible, smile and redirect the conversation to some other theme.

So, there you have it! Hopefully, these suggestions will help you to navigate your holiday stress and keep you out of the “holi-daze.” Feel free to check out some of the FREE stress tips provided on my website:

Wishing you PEACE this holiday season!

Photo by Luna Lovegood: