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7 Tips for Dealing with Family During the Holidays

Are you feeling stressed about seeing your family during the holidays? You are definitely not alone. Although we all paint a beautiful picture in our minds about how the holidays should feel, many of us actually feel overwhelmed at this time of year. For a significant percentage of Americans, visiting with family can negatively affect mental health.

So how can you better navigate time with family during the holidays? There are coping skills you can use to resolve family conflict, avoid arguments and enjoy your togetherness more. We explore some of those tips for dealing with family, below.

Do Others Worry About Spending Time with Family During the Holidays?

A recent survey of 2000 Americans for an international motel chain revealed some intriguing truths about visiting family during the holidays. Of those surveyed, 95 percent believe it is important to spend time with loved ones over the winter break. But 40 percent admit the prospect of doing so causes them stress. Only just over half claim they enjoy spending the holidays in a family member's home.

The top irritating factors about time spent with family during the holidays include:

  • Lack of privacy - 22%
  • Getting on each others' nerves - 20%
  • Family drama - 20%
  • Feeling like they're imposing - 19%
  • Noisy or chaotic environment - 18%

Traveling at any time of the year can trigger anxiety in many people. The same is true for spending time with family members. Because the holiday season often combines these anxiety-inducing issues, it is no wonder many of us worry about our mental wellness more toward the year's end.

7 Coping Skills to Use When Visiting Family During the Holidays

Below are seven easy tips to use when visiting family during the holidays. Using these coping skills can help you enjoy your winter season and family time more. They can even help you avoid family conflict.

1. Think Positively
Before the season even begins, your worry about visiting with family during the holidays can undermine your enjoyment and trigger anxiety. Instead of focusing on negative aspects of the gatherings, maintain a positive attitude. Use positive affirmations and calming techniques like yoga, meditation, physical fitness routines or walking outdoors to keep you in a healthy head space.

2. Set Reasonable Expectations
If you have ever watched the holiday movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," you may recall Clark Griswold's biggest issue in this film was his tendency to set unreasonable expectations. He expected everything from his holiday light display to time spent with his family during the holidays to inspire awe. But that is not how life typically works.

You, like Clark, will probably face difficult interactions with family members. People will get on your nerves. The holiday meal or decorations may not look Instagram-worthy. Whatever you face while visiting your relatives, remember to cherish the positive moments and not sweat the small stuff.

3. Keep Conversation Light
There are so many hot-button topics to discuss these days. But it is never a wise idea to bring up politics, religion or other complex issues when spending time with family during the holidays. Avoid asking hard questions or digging too deeply into touchy subjects. Upsetting topics can make everyone feel uncomfortable and often spawn family conflict that can last well beyond the season. Set boundaries and maintain them to keep the peace.

4. Avoid Drinking Too Much
Alcohol can make anyone feel more aggressive, particularly when triggered by the complexity of family relationships. Try to minimize your drinking and avoid turning alcohol into the focus of your gathering. If a family member seems intoxicated and becomes argumentative, simply avoid them until they sober up. Remember that, by controlling your reactions to others, you can prevent family conflict.

5. Play Together
"A family that plays together stays together," as the old saying goes. Instead of letting boredom lead to family conflict, try to keep everyone engaged in a focused activity. Play sports as teams outside, gather around a board game or take a hike together. Even just watching movies together can help you all enjoy yourselves more.

6. Maintain a Personal Theme of Gratitude and Tolerance
When they are getting on your nerves, remember what makes you grateful about spending time with family during the holidays. These moments do not last forever and one day you will cherish your happy memories so much. At the same time, practice being tolerant of others' differences and even their quirks that irritate you.

7. Practice Deep Breathing
If family conflict is brewing, take some time to yourself. Practice deep breathing by taking five deep, slow breaths. Focus on the air entering your lungs and how each breath leaves your body. You will be surprised how much deep breathing can help you better cope with difficult interactions with family during the holidays. Remember that by controlling your thoughts and actions, you can successfully navigate tough moments with the people you love.

Family Therapy Can Heal Wounds and Resolve Family Conflict

Beyond being a time spent with family, the holidays are a time for many to recognize they struggle with family conflict. If you and your loved ones struggle to enjoy each other because of old wounds or other family problems, family therapy can help. With the guidance and support of a licensed therapist, your family can work through past and present issues to build new respect for each other. You can also learn how to communicate better as a unit with all members feeling heard.

To schedule your family therapy session, call Greene Psychology Group of Raleigh, NC today at 919-205-5339. We offer in-person sessions within our Raleigh office and online therapy for individuals throughout the state of North Carolina.

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