Holiday Stresses

Everyone knows the holiday season is bitter-sweet. From presents to preparation, the to-do list is seamlessly endless and the rewards welcomed with open arms. Follow these quick expert tips to make sure you survive the holidays in style — with your sanity intact.
Text by Dena Roché | June 10, 2018 | Lifestyle

Rockwell fantasy we have in our heads of how the holidays are supposed to be. When this image meets the reality of our drunken Uncle Bob and our nitpicking mother-in-law we get stressed. “Get over the idea that your holiday must be perfect,” says Dr. Susan Schumsky, Author of Instant Healing. “So what if the cake isn’t chocolate or the hors d’oeurves are burned? Your holiday can be wonderful if you let go and allow the love of family to be your top priority.”
Ok, but what if your family isn’t that, well, lovable? In that case, you need a strategy. “Decide to keep your peace of mind no matter what games your in-laws or family are playing,” says Todd Creager, Author of The Long Hot Marriage. “Do this by ending your insistence on harmony and give up on trying to change family members.”
If family gatherings are historically charged with tension and contain predictable confrontations, try and stop it before it starts this year. “Acknowledge that a problem exists and talk to those family members who get into it most often,” suggests Sharon Rivkin, Author of Breaking The Argument Cycle. “Make a truce to avoid hot topics. If fights still occur, try not to take sides. Your job is to help the arguers save face and end the disagreement.”
What’s more, remember most arguments are a symptom of people wanting to be seen, heard and appreciated. But what if you’re not simply an innocent bystander, but are the one who has conflicts with family members? How can you keep your cool and still enjoy the holidays? “Try and accept the family you have and let go of the family that you want,” advises California-based Counselor Lisa Haisha.
Easier said than done, especially when your sibling-in-law is pushing your buttons. In the midst of the conflict, try mentally using self-soothing affirmations like “I’m OK, it’s OK” or “It’s cool to not agree” and remind yourself that you’re in control and in balance. Combine this with taking deep breaths and you’ll feel more calm and centered in no time.
When the relatives are too much and you’re emotionally overloaded, it’s important to take care of yourself to reduce your stress level so you don’t adversely affect your health and well-being.
Moreover, exercise is a good outlet to channel frustration. Try doing something active outdoors because the workout, coupled with being in nature, will release even more feel-good endorphins into your system. To feel more grounded, try a yoga class or meditation. “Meditation is the key to being on your A-game,” says Shumsky. “It maintains your inner center of calm and peace in the midst of the holiday hurricane.”
Taking time to pamper ourselves during the holiday frenzy is also important. It can be something as simple as relaxing in a bubble bath surrounded by candles, or planning a day at a spa to literally massage away the knots and tensions that have built up in your body for way too long.
Another way to better appreciate the holiday season is to take the focus off your problems and issues and give back to the community. Nothing’s better for getting perspective on petty family fights than feeding the hungry on Thanksgiving or visiting a nursing home on Christmas. By gaining perspective and gratitude for all you have, you’ll be more inclined to let insensitive comments roll off your back.
But if tension still continues to build up, instead of grinning and bearing it, share your pain. “After you’ve absolutely had it with relatives, that’s when you need to call your best friend to commiserate…or call a counselor,” says Shumsky. “After the craziness of trying to make this holiday perfect, a sympathetic ear will help.”
If you’re married and the problem lies with your respective extended family, it’s imperative you talk to your spouse beforehand to make sure you’re both on the same page. “Couples need to make their relationship more of a priority than their family of origin,” says Creager. “Of course, be kind and sensitive, but families need to let go and when they don’t, you have to firmly set boundaries.”
According to Creager, it’s good to find a compromise between old family traditions while creating new memories. It’s also important to honor yourself during the holidays and consciously decide what you really want to say yes to, and who you want to spend your time with.
This is also important when it comes to holiday parties, events and entertaining. Don’t accept an invitation just because you think you have to, time is valuable, especially during the holidays. Being selective with how much you participate in the social scene can keep you from stressing out. And if you’re hosting holiday parties, staying organized is the key to staying sane. “If you’re holding a holiday party, make sure to request RSVPs so you know how to plan,” says Bob Sadowski of At A Glance Organization. “Create a chore-chart and timeline to get the house prepared and focus on the public areas of the home.”
In the end, no matter how you decide to celebrate the season, the key to enjoying it more is to try to release your preconceived ideas of what should be and just go with the flow as much as possible. “Gathering together in the spirit of the season, keeping the true meaning of the holidays in focus — that will be the greatest gift you can give to yourself and your family,” concludes Shumsky. And that’s something that should be added to every wishlist this season.