The Montfort Group

Managing Family Stress During The Holidays

I love this time of year. Decorations are festive and gatherings with family and friends warm my heart. But the bells don’t jingle for everyone and holidays are full of stress for many people! 

There are obvious stressors – work deadlines, finances, gift shopping for those difficult to buy for, a busy social calendar, eating too much, drinking too much – it can all get to you. But strained family relations can feel more so at this time of year and grief can peak as we remember the loss of loved ones, broken relationships, and dreams that didn’t manifest. Yes, the holidays can be far from the warmth and ho-ho-ho-ing we see on the Hallmark Channel! In fact, this time of year can be downright lonely.

While there is no magic recipe to avoid some of the stress, here are some suggestions for managing holiday stress and family drama. Expecting difficult relatives to behave differently probably isn’t realistic. Self-care and planning are key to managing anxiety and emotional strain!

  1. Manage the expectations of others and yourself. Know your limits and be realistic about what you can tolerate. Plan emergency exits if you need some adult time out. Take a walk, schedule time with a couple of close friends.
  2. If you anticipate encounters with a difficult relative, plan ahead. Try not to take the bait of a biting comment or provocative comment. Take several deep breaths to self regulate. Taking the role of an observer can help to rise above the fray.
  3. Delegate!! Many hands make light work. Trying to do it all yourself is a sure path to fatigue and irritation. Assign tasks to spouses, family members and anyone else coming to sit at your holiday table.
  4. Keep it simple. Recreating the pages from Martha Stewart’s magazine doesn’t make for a more memorable holiday. Stay clear of the ‘shoulds’ and perfection. 
  5. No is a full sentence. Set boundaries.
  6. Manage your schedule to include some quiet time where possible. We all need to regroup with so much going on. Set priorities for time spent with family and time spent together.
  7. Go slow on alcohol. Overindulgence can be a catalyst for unfiltered debates and hurtful words that ruin an evening.
  8. Self-care. If daily workouts are part of your routine, keep moving! If a hot bath helps to relax you, make the time. See #3. Setting boundaries can be an excellent way to honor your limits.

How do you manage the demands of the holidays? We’d love to hear strategies you find helpful in the comments!

Please enjoy the articles below on navigating seasonal challenges:

How to Survive Christmas with a Difficult Family

Dealing with a Dysfunctional Family During the Holidays

How to Survive Your Family Christmas with Your Sanity Intact

Coping with Loneliness During the Holidays

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with her Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is also a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. She received advanced practical training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and families at UT Southwestern, where she spent five years in the Department of Psychiatry’s Family Studies Clinic working with diverse clients of all ages. In addition, she has completed training in Collaborative Law for couples seeking divorce to find solutions in a more amicable way.

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