The holidays are awesome, and so is family… except when it isn’t. Rather than freaking out and making things worse and more stressful, here are 15 tips for handling family stress over the holidays and remaining kinda kind.
1- Make a plan
This isn’t your first rodeo. Strategize your visit: who you will sit next to, how you will respond to sensitive issues and questions, your response if someone asks why you post nasty things about Donald Trump, and you might even want to put together a few go-to topics if you feel things are steering into a direction you don’t like – stuff like that. Obviously you can’t coordinate every little thing, but a little planning can go a long ways.
2- Be positive and don’t assume it’s gonna suck
If you approach every scenario having already decided it’s gonna be awful – it will. Your attitude plays a huge rule, so do your best to go in with one that’s positive. If things start sucking, remember the cliche, “you can’t control what happens, but you can control how you respond.”
3- Don’t take everything personally
The holidays are stressful: planning, prep, traveling, expenses, etc.. On top of that, the holidays are really hard for some due to loss of family members, memories, loneliness. So if someone is in a bad mood and snaps at you, realize it isn’t about you.
4- Keep conversations with difficult people to a minimum and on-point
You likely already have an idea of who and what topics will set you off. Keep conversations with those individuals to a minimum, but plan out a few retorts to the questions and topics you’re sure will come up. Also know of a few topics in which you can easily steer the conversation. And remember you can always ask people about themselves – that’s most people’s favorite topic.
5- Pause and think before speaking
Just image how many situations would quickly defuse — or not happen at all — if everyone put a little thought into how they will respond. During that pause between thinking and speaking, your neurons make the leap from the fear center of the brain to a more evolved, pragmatic, and less psycho portion. This also gives you a chance to practice dual-perspective and try to see the situation from that person’s vantage point.
6- Bite tongue and move on
After taking that pause, you might realize that biting your tongue is the safest, most surefire way to deescalate a situation. So bite it hard, and move on by either walking away or changing topic.
7- Resist urge to bring up old shit
Much of the nuttiness that happens over the holidays is rooted in crap from the past. While I’m not suggesting anyone sweet things under the rug, realize the holidays are most certainly not the right time. You’re making it about yourself. No bringing up big points of discussion, or dropping those sly little back-handed “jokes” – everyone sees through them and they start shit.
If someone else brings up old stuff, that’s when you use one of those conversation adjusting tips. Change topic to something else, or tell person you’ll have that hellish conversation with them on another day.
8- Changing someone’s mind isn’t your job
Everyone is molded by different experiences and backgrounds. Just because someone disagrees with you, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And even if you think they are, who cares – it’s not your damn job to change their mind. Also remember that there is a big difference between opinion and fact.
Since this is a topic many will deal with, I’ll throw it out there: remember you’re not actually working for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, so there’s no need to try to change anyone’s mind or get anyone to feel the bern or start appreciating how Trump’s ‘tell it like it is’ approach. And if you are actually working for either campaign, take the damn day off.
9- Take care of anxiety beforehand
If you take something for anxiety – pills, weed, whatever – properly dose yourself before hand, or hit the gym to release a little stress and pre-family jitters. Also, this isn’t the time to be on day 3 of your juice cleanse or of not smoking – you’ll be a monster. Those resolutions you aren’t gonna keep should be kept until Jan 1, anyways.
10- Don’t drink too much
Or drink too much – if that works better. But be sure to check yo self before you reck yo self… and everyone’s Christmas. Incorporate a few non-alcoholic drinks in between rounds and eat enough.
11- Be helpful
You know who it’s hard to talk shit about? Someone who’s being helpful.
12- Carve out ‘you time’
Step outside and get some air, before – not after – you freak out and totally lose your shit. Take care of yourself.
13- Don’t be an asshole
This one’s important. Make sure you’re not the problem.
14- Appreciate the good
As hard as it is at times, family is awesome. They’re your people so appreciate them and time you share.
15- Just eat your feelings (worst case scenario)
This is not ideal, but totally okay during the holidays.