Ah, the holidays, a special time of the year when you spend time with all the people that you are closest to….and maybe some that you are glad to only spend time with a couple times a year. 😉 To make this year less stressful for you, we have created some basic coping skills and guidelines for you.
1) Talk about the stress! A common scenario includes not getting along with your significant others side of the family. Using “I statements” is a good way to start this conversation with your significant other. For example, “I am feeling anxious about seeing your side of the family because when I am with them, it does not seem like they listen to me. I would really like your help by purposely including me in discussions as they are happening this holiday”. This way of communicating takes away the blame and highlights how you are feeling, why you are feeling this way and also what you would like to see as a solution. They can then use the same template to respond. This way of speaking to each other decreases defensiveness and conflict and therefore increases the odds of you both finding a solution that works for you!
2) Set boundaries! Another common scenario includes not wanting to see your own family. Assuming you decide to go to the holiday event, this time set boundaries. This means that you may want to set up a reason as to why you need to leave early or simply talk to your family about the reality that a couple hours with them is all you are able to manage at this time. To accomplish this goal, you will want to spend some time alone to reflect on what you need. During this time look at what the stressors are for you and evaluate what you think you need. Since you are setting the boundaries, you have control over changing them as well. If things are going well, stay a little longer. If things are not going well, give yourself permission to leave early. Only do what you are able to do! If you know there is a topic that creates conflict, ie politics, religion, etc… don’t choose to initiate or engage in these topics.
3) Have a plan! If you have traveled somewhere, plan a place that you can go to take a break. This could be within the house or someplace close by that you can go. Finally, if you are taking someone with you to your family gatherings, plan ahead of time a code word that helps you both check in with one another as well as know when it is time to leave.
The holidays are stressful, but often times they are only as stressful as we make them. Know that it is OK and healthy to take care of yourself this holiday!