The holiday season is upon us once again and, naturally, we all would like it to be a season of joy and happiness. But the holidays can also be a stressful season for those of us with difficult family dynamics.
Whether you’re actively dreading all those obligatory family get-togethers or just uneasy about all that could go wrong, don’t despair. Armed with the right self-care practices, you can significantly minimize the stress of family functions this holiday season—and even have some fun in the process.
Here are seven simple self-care practices to help regulate your stress level around family this holiday season.
Press pause on social media
It’s acceptable to take a break from toxic and taxing family interactions. When it comes to your mental health, you owe no one anything. If there is any possibility of family drama, you can exercise self-care throughout the holidays by turning off social media. It can be tiring if someone initiates an argument on social media. At times, it’s necessary to stand back from online family conflict.
Here are some other practical ways to limit stress and anxiety associated with social media.
Mindfulness means being present at this moment and not letting your mind wander into negative thinking patterns based upon past hurts or future fears. When you practice mindfulness during tense interactions with family, you don’t take things personally or blame yourself for the stressful nature of the situation.
When family members push your buttons, it’s important to keep in mind that this is their issue, not yours. You are allowed the power to establish boundaries with family members who can be challenging or poisonous at times. Understand that you cannot alter other people, but you do have control over how much time and energy you choose to devote to them or how much time and energy you devote to worrying about what they could be doing or saying.
Mindful listening, especially during difficult conversations with family members, can help you avoid becoming reactive in otherwise stressful situations. When you listen mindfully, you’re not trying to prove yourself right; instead, you’re just listening to understand what the other person is saying. That’s it. Ensuring that your family member feels heard is a practice in empathy and compassion—and it will likely minimize the likelihood of things spiraling out of control.
Monitor your alcohol consumption
Excessive drinking can easily contribute to unwise choices such as screaming at family members or saying something we’ll later regret. Because our bodies take time to metabolize alcohol, the effects of alcohol can last for hours. But by monitoring your alcohol consumption at holiday gatherings with family, you are engaging in self-care and promoting your mental health and well-being by avoiding negative stressors in your life.
Take a break
If the holidays are becoming too stressful with family, find a place to escape. You can take a stroll alone or contact your best friend and ask if they’d like to Facetime with you while you vent about what’s going on in your life at the moment. Occasionally, when we become overwhelmed during complicated interactions with family members, taking a break and getting fresh air makes us feel better.
Sometimes we can be hard on ourselves during the holidays because we want to have everything together, but that’s not always possible. You don’t need to be perfect around your family members, so practice kindness towards yourself and give yourself grace when you feel like things aren’t going as well as you had hoped.
Bring a friend
If you don’t have family members you can count on for stress-free interactions, consider inviting a friend. Having a reliable conversation partner with you can make all the difference at stressful family events. A friend can serve as an objective third party, helping validate the stressful dynamics others in your family might not see or even outwardly deny. Furthermore, having a friend with you will help you feel less alone because being the only one who recognizes problematic family behaviors can make for a lonely experience.
If all else fails, leave early
One last thing to keep in mind: you can always duck out early. You shouldn’t feel obligated to stay at a family function if you are not enjoying yourself, much less if your family is making you feel like a total ball of nerves. It can help to leave yourself an easy out if you anticipate needing to make an early exit. But ultimately, if you decide to leave earlier than expected, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. These are practices in self-care, after all.
If upcoming family get-togethers have you feeling on edge, know that you’re not alone. A lot of people experience heightened stress and anxiety before, during, and after holiday gatherings with family. But with the right game plan, you can enjoy calmer, more satisfying interactions with your family this holiday season.
Looking for some outside support in dealing with stressful family situations? Our Charlotte counselors are here to help. Click here or call us now at 704-800-4436 to schedule your first session today.