6 Tips to Avoid Family Stress Over the Holidays

Holidays are a time that can bring great joy and love; and a time when the people look forward to with excitement. At the same time the holidays can be very stressful and difficult emotionally, physically and financially. Research shows that most people report that lack of money and lack of time evoke the most stress. A close contender with these stressors is the dynamics of family gatherings.


No matter how grown up we've become, being with our family can bring up historic unresolved feelings, insecurities, disappointment and pain. Below are some tips to help each of us take control over our own holidays and make them the most positive and fulfilling.

  1. Be the cause of your happiness not the effect of others. Much of the stress we face comes from feeling out of control. To the extent that we go into the holidays with the expectation that we are the ones to Create our own happiness and that we are the ones in charge of our own fulfillment, including our physical, spiritual and emotional needs, this gives us control over our reality. We are less likely to be disappointed and receive more from time with our families, regardless of their shortcomings and hurtful behaviors. Let go of trying to change others and be busy with being who you really want to be.
  2. Come as a Giver. Once we realize we are the cause of our own happiness, this allows us to come to the holidays as a giver – which really brings us the most joy in the long run. Plan ahead ways that you can make it special for others. Be sensitive to other people's needs. Getting out of oneself is the best way to feel happiest with oneself. It's a paradox. See how you can help the stress of the hostess. If you are the host or hostess then think of ways that you can delegate whether that be food or flowers or games, to help people feel a part of making the gathering warm and fun. 
  3. Keep it Light. Family gatherings are not the time to bring up old grievances or address unresolved grudges. Keep your expectations realistic for how much intimacy each of your family members is comfortable with. Laughter and smiling change everyone's moods and lowers walls and bonds us. Consider bringing jokes funny stories games that are simple and light and joyful. 
  4. Maintain a healthy routine physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Research shows that people are more likely to decrease their healthy lifestyle activities and increase their unhealthy ones during this time of the holidays. This is a bad ingredient to add to the holiday recipe. Add self-care and mix thoroughly. Make a conscious effort to resist the natural tendency to spend more time on the couch, eating unhealthy food and drinking more alcohol. The alcohol alone, which lowers our inhibitions and increases our anxiety, is enough to make or break the quality and harmony of a family gathering, not to mention your own self-worth. That's not to say to make it extreme but any effort you can make to restrict and to be proactive will pay off – the next day and on down the line.
  5. Mind over matter. The holidays are especially important time to engage in the kinds of relaxing meditative centering activities that help you feel a sense of balance and connectedness to yourself and something bigger than yourself. Choose spiritual and meditative practices when you're preparing for being with your family but even intermittently retreat away from your family to breathe and relax to lighten yourself and awaken your proactive nature.
  6. Look for the good. Keeping your mind focused on what is good and loving changes our reality. It takes a lot more effort to see the good than to see the bad. Seeing the negative takes no effort. Plant seeds in your mind that will create a reality that is only good. Our consciousness creates your reality. It's up to us.