For those of us who will not enjoy spending the holidays on a white, sandy beach, here are five ways to manage your sanity with your family this holiday season.
1. Don’t anticipate how the day will go
Worrying about Uncle Fred starting a political argument (as he does every year) or Aunt Lillian making comments about how your job isn’t “going anywhere” or the outfit you chose is “very bright” may increase your anxiety even before you arrive. Before dinner, do something relaxing for yourself.
- Go for a walk or run
- Listen to relaxing music
- Yoga or meditation
- Think about what you like in these family members
This can improve your tolerance and enable you to respond thoughtfully to their criticisms.
2. Set healthy boundaries
You can have the highest hopes, but your family members will inevitably remain their same ole selves. That’s ok! Set some boundaries for yourself ahead of time.
- Think ahead about who else may be at the gathering that you’d enjoy spending 1:1 time with and whom you can only handle in a group setting.
- Decide how much time you want to spend at this gathering, an hour or two, maybe three?
- Have a way out, and don’t catch a ride with someone who plans to stay till the wee hours. Rent a car or grab an Uber if needed.
- Arrange for a friend to call you at a set time for a graceful exit. (I’ve used this strategy many times).
3. Keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum
I know this can be difficult at holiday gatherings and goes without saying, but for those in the back of the room, DON’T GET DRUNK. People often become increasingly argumentative or aggressive as they continue to drink, making matters worse. Try to avoid others who are drinking excessively and slowly becoming belligerent.
4. Participant Observation
Become a participant observer, which, in science, is a qualitative data collection method that studies human behavior. When you can observe someone behaving obnoxiously in order to describe the scene later to a like-minded friend or close family member, it can become a fun and fascinating endeavor!
5. Post-holiday debriefing session
Have a close friend or family member you can talk to (debrief) a few days after the event, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. You’ll find yourself getting things off your chest and being able to laugh instead of cry over specific events.
When you talk out loud with a trusted friend, family member or even therapist, you can find the humor in Aunt Lillian’s colorful description of your clothes even though she believes it’s perfectly ok to wear a moo-moo with pink feathered slippers to dinner.