8 Tips To Ensure Smooth Family Visits This Holiday Season
The holidays are already stressful enough dealing with heightened emotions, financial stress and sorting out your travel plans; adding in your family can make it that much more stressful. Many of us spend more time at the end of the year with family than we do the entire rest of the year. It can make your last 5 weeks of the year feel unbearable but you’ll make it through this year, too.
Here are some helpful tips to ensure that things go smoothly when you’re with your family this holiday season.
Communicate and be prepared to be flexible. The most important thing to do is make sure everything is sorted out beforehand. Make sure you know when everyone is arriving and make sure everyone knows when you’re arriving so there is no last minute fluster. Communicating important time details can help people feel like they are in more control of the situation. But also be prepared to be flexible, somethings things get delayed and rarely do things go according to plan. Having high expectations can often lead to resentment and feelings of anger or frustration.
Hold internal boundaries for yourself. Know what you can and cannot control. You can’t control other people’s thoughts or reactions, just like they can’t control yours. Spending the holidays arguing with family memories causes stresses and unneeded frustration for you, and everyone else who is present. In these situations, it’s okay to walk away. Don’t hand over your emotions to them. Take a moment to notice triggers and move away from the situation to practice self-care. Continuing to engage with those who cause added stress in your life doesn’t do you any good. Your time and energy, especially during the holidays, is worth more than engaging with those who entice you.
Schedule some ‘you’ time. If you know you often feel overwhelmed or trapped when you’re with your family for the holidays then get it on your calendar that you’re going to take some time away from your family. Take some time for yourself to visit with friends and familiar places. Allow yourself that time to fully enjoy them. If a day surrounded by family starts feeling like too much you can offer to run an errand, take the dog on a walk or escape to your room for a little bit. It’s crucial to have some time to yourself so you don’t feel bombarded and overwhelmed, and can make the most of your time with family.
Be conscious of your alcohol intake. It’s natural to feel like you need a drink to take the edge off but remember that moderation is key. You want to maintain control over your behavior and actions so “loose lips won’t sink ships,” as they say. The last thing you need is to create a scene and have to live that down at the next family function. This is a good time to think through possible talking points and ask yourself, “is this the best time for me to have this discussion with…?” and if your answer is not, tuck it back in your mind for a later date.
Only share what you’re comfortable sharing, and don’t feel like you need to share what you don’t. We all feel like we fall back into our old family roles when we go back home for the holidays -- it’s totally normal. You feel like you’re a kid again and have to answer all the interrogation questions from your family members, but you don’t. Know that you have a choice of what questions you answer and you can also answer in as much or little detail as you feel comfortable with. Humor is a good distraction to get yourself out of a tight situation, as well as, redirecting the conversation back to the person who is asking the questions. Remember, you should never have to feel ashamed of who you are or where you’re at in life.
Choose your battles. If you feel extremely unhappy or uncomfortable with certain situations, like going to church services with your family, prepare an alternative plan prior to the trip. You can also choose to let your family know beforehand so it’s not a last minute surprise. Knowing your family, decide what commitments or traditions are worth the energy to fight. Some may feel cringe-worthy but for certain things, it may be better to bite your tongue and go along with it to ensure things go smoothly.
If possible, surround yourself with allies that you know are supportive of you. In most families, there are a variety of personalities and you are most likely not the only one stressed about the family holidays. Whether it’s bringing someone with you to help you feel supported or a family member you know has your back, make sure you communicate with them prior to your trip. Humor is a great way to engage with those who you aren’t sure how to connect with and asking them questions takes the pressure off of you. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you’ve changed and grown in the past year and so have others. You may be surprised to find out you have more in common with family members that you might not have in the past. Go in with an open mind.
Don’t compare your family and holiday with others. Expectations and judging your family based on other’s filtered social media families can often lead to disappoints by painting an unrealistic expectation of how the holidays “should” look. It’s easy to pose in front of a camera and smile for 5 seconds and it is impossible to have “holiday cheer” 24/7 so don’t put that unrealistic pressure on yourself. Instagram stories and photos are a mere glimpse of the reality. Instead of spending your time on social media wishing we were at someone else’s family dinner, focus on the good that’s come out of yours.
It’s absolutely normal to feel uncomfortable, feelings of dread or anxiousness about the holidays with your family. Smile, nod and keep your peace of mind while reflecting on the good that comes from the holidays with family. It’s not perfect, but it never is. Don’t let it get to you and when you get back to your normal routine, pencil in a self-care day to help you decompress from the stress. You got this. And look at it this way… after it’s all over, you have a whole another year before you have to do it again.