Benjamin Franklin once remarked that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, however, I think there is a compelling argument to be made that holiday stress be added to the list of inevitabilities. Reconvening with family often brings people of different personalities, value systems, and opinions together under one roof. It’s a perfect recipe for interpersonal conflict. In our episode with Kara Mayer Robinson, we had the pleasure of brainstorming some tips and tricks to keep your mental health intact while you are home for the holidays!
Tip #1 Plan in Advance
Family gatherings can be stressful in a multitude of ways. By taking time beforehand to better understand your stress triggers, you can create a better plan to reduce holiday stress. That being said, gaining this kind of personal insight can be difficult. Talking to a therapist or journaling can be a great way to identify and neutralize the upcoming stressors.
Tip #2 Set Boundaries
Every family is different, however, if yours is anything like mine, conversations can often veer toward touchy subjects. Just because a family member wants to talk to you about politics DOES NOT mean you have to participate in it. There are many polite ways you can set these boundaries. I recommend using “I” statements. This allows you to share your feelings without coming off accusatory. My personal favorite is to say, “I totally appreciate where you are coming from, but I am going to take a pass on this conversation.” Setting boundaries can also mean staying at a motel or hotel instead of with your family. The most important thing to remember when setting boundaries is to stick with them. When you take your own boundaries seriously it helps others take them seriously as well.
Tip #3 Don’t Worry About What Others Think of You
This can be a bit of a hard one. As human beings we are programmed to care about the opinion of others, however, this can cause more stress during the holidays. By focussing on your own health over how your relatives may judge your decisions or conversations, you set yourself up for reducing overall holiday stress. Remember, you don’t have to convince others that you are right.
Tip #4 Don’t Numb Out
For many of us the holidays can be painful. It is a natural human response to try and numb the pain with substances. While the use of alcohol or other substances can momentarily alleviate the stressful nature of the holidays, it often makes things worse in the end. Being present can be incredibly difficult in the moment, but your body will thank you later on!
Tip #5 Be of Service
For most of us, we feel our best when we are able to contribute and help others. The holidays should be no different. Something as simple as offering to help in the kitchen can give us the positive energy we need to find success during the holidays. Not to mention, you will be reducing the stress on your family members, paving the way for lower tensions.
Tip #6 Take Care of You
We all have our own physical and mental health routines that help us get through the day. Whether it be a stringent exercise schedule, daily meditation, or a specific diet, it is important to maintain self-care regardless of where you are. Remember, it’s these activities that helped stay healthy up to now, so why stop them in times of stress?
I hope these tips help you to have a happier and healthier time with your family this holiday season. Good luck and hang in there!