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Holiday Stress Management and Coping Tips for Family Get-togethers

Posted by WorkExcel.com on

Holiday family get-togethers can be stressful. All of those old childhood wounds can get reopened, and, in some 

Holiday Stress Management Coping Tips

families, new issues created. Even with families that appear to get along, beneath the calm can lurk no-talk rules, past grievances, "trigger-happy" topics, and untold hurt.

Can you relax and enjoy your family this holiday season and leave the anxiety and dread behind? If that sounds like a worthy goal that you would like to try, then consider these few simple tips.

Recognize that we all have triggers for our emotional responses to past issues or current beefs. For example, many people become enraged by opposite political viewpoints at a Thanksgiving dinner table. Have you witnessed these scenes?

As a starting point this season, make a plan for yourself that will help you gain more control over emotional landmines. Literally prepare yourself for the holiday season by making a personal care and response plan you will follow.

Writing down ideas for such a plan will help you act on them more predictably and improve your holiday stress management prowess.

For example, decide how long you will to interact with difficult family members, and decide what your boundaries will be regarding the length of time and scope of these interactions.

Realize that the longer you engage with a difficult relative or family friend, the more likely it is that toxic elements of that relationship will appear. These are your triggers.


Establish Boundaries for Yourself

One boundary to consider might include staying at hotel instead of at your family member’s home so that you can have some down time. Sound good?

Another might be determining what topics you want to avoid in conversations. If Suzy, your annoying step-mother who married your rich father, begins discussing the sentimental beach house she now owns and has suddenly decided to renovate against your wishes, how will you respond? What would your personal care and response plan look like or include to manage such a statement or conversation?

With a little thought, you can decide an approach, style, or response plan to manage nearly all questions or issues that historically have been triggers for you. Does this sound like a lot of work? It's not. You can do it under five minutes.

You can decide to put your mental health first and be happier, and steer clear of toxic interactions with relatives and family friends by not controlling them, but by tailoring response to their stuff.

Consider Interventions for Holiday Stress

Holiday stress management may require interventions. One might include using a close and trusted friend to help you role-play these sorts of interactions. You will be surprised at how effective role plays can be for helping you gain control over your reflexes -- responses you suddenly feel compelled launch in reaction to triggers at family gatherings.

Practice answers to statements or the triggering behaviors you know will come up. If your cousin is still angry that you inherited your grandmother’s antique Sunday milk pitcher, think ahead of how you will handle this grudge. One way is to redirect – simply change the topic of conversation when it comes up. You can also tell your cousin that you don’t wish to discuss the issue at this time and then change the subject if a conversation about it surfaces.

stress management tips for holidays

Holiday Stress Management and More About You

Do you have grudges and grievances? Decide what grievances you’ll let go. Sometimes being around family requires us to forget about past issues and simply enjoy everyone despite them. It may be worth not avoiding the brother-in-law you don’t like in order to enjoy time with your little nieces and nephews who you don't see that often.

In that same vein, save the big issues for another time. If you need to confront your Aunt Suzy about something that hurt you, address it  after the holiday get-together.

Remember the holidays are about peace. You can put the war off for another day. Realize that your happiness in great measure is dictated by what you say to yourself in response to what you see and hear. Take control of these nearly subconscious processes. Don't let them control you.


Practice Mindfulness: A Holiday Coping Tip

Get into the habit of calmly practicing self-talk scripts that give you more of what you want in relationships. It takes practice and there is a natural resistance to change and attempting to fight old patterns of thinking and acting. Consistency is key. You will certainly make the changes you want with a determined programmatic approach.

The reality is, we only have right now. Not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future can make your holiday celebrations a success. Focus on what is happening at this very moment and enjoy it.


Have a Life Line to Help You Manage Holiday Stress

Make plans ahead of time to connect with a friend during the festivities and support each other. Hearing a friendly voice who can help you sort out your feelings can provide a lot of relief and end in a few laughs.

Remember others in your family may be hurting, too. You aren’t the only one feeling stress or getting triggered. It’s part of many people’s family dynamics. This really is very normal stuff when you get right down to it. Be thoughtful if another family member gets upset or doesn’t live up to your expectations. Put your family in perspective and you will see the humor in much of the patterned behavior that has existed for years. The whole point is: Let go.

Have Something Else to Look Forward To

After your family celebration, schedule a get-together with friends or those in the family who bring you joy. Knowing that this event is pending can give you the extra bump to get through time with your family. This is a "forward-looking focus stress management technique" that help you manage stress in the present. Hint: Use this approach year-round.

Family get-togethers are often a mixed bag of emotions. But learning to enjoy relatives for who they are while setting boundaries can make these celebrations some of best you will experience.

What to Do about the Political Divide

With the current political divisiveness in our country, there’s bound to be an argument or two during family holiday parties. Even worse, sitting in silence next to the person with whom you politically disagree may feel like you can cut the air in the room with a knife. What can you do to avoid debate or hard feelings? Here's an idea--consider four or five topics right now that you can use to cut this atmosphere and conversation logjam when it occurs.

The easiest answer is to not to talk about politics at all. And everybody is often thinking the same thing -- so be the first. Ask people to get along and not discuss politics at the holiday gathering. You will be surprised at the relief and the willingness of others to get along when you raise this request to the group.

If limiting political talk is not an option, learn to redirect it. Redirecting is a simple changing of the subject, and it works.

Learn more about stress management training for employees with an editable, yet professionally narrated PowerPoint program on stress or other WorkExcel.com products for the workplace. And remember that all the products we offer are editable, reproducible, brandable, and professionally narrated -- and also available as PowerPoints, DVDs, Videos for a Web site, and Web Courses with handouts and certificates embedded.

You can find more topics on workplace wellness and family stress related programs at WorkExcel.com. Use the search bar to advance your search.

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