Surviving Family Visits: A Guide to Holiday Serenity

The holiday season is well on it’s way: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s are all right around the corner. For many, this season is a time of joy and celebration and togetherness. Often, we’re reuniting with family that we haven’t seen in a while. Double this if it’s your house where the family festivities are happening. Now, deep down in our hearts we love them, we do, but interacting with relatives can sometimes be quite stressful and filled with tension. Family members often just have a knack for pushing all the buttons that make us want to lose it, including the holiday spirit. 

So, with that in mind, we’ve put together a brief guide of things to keep mindful this holiday season (and the many more to come) for the sake of your own sanity and surviving family visits over the holidays.

Preparing Your Home and Mind

An important key to dealing with potential stress is doing prep work. Firstly, take care of the things you know need to be taken care of, like cleaning the house. However, don’t just make the house clean. Take time and care to make sure your space is well-organized. If you have relatives who don’t visit your home often, you’ll want to make sure that they know where everything is and how to access it. Bath towels, the Wi-Fi password, where you keep the coffee–make it clear how to access these and any other essentials they may need.

Just as your home should be organized, so should your mind. Accept that no family is perfect and even if you don’t think your family is stressful, stressful things are still bound to happen. Prioritize self-care activities like meditation, exercise, or hobbies to keep your mind uncluttered and prevent stress spiraling. Ensure you’re mentally and emotionally prepared for the holiday season.

Effective Communication

Often times with our families we may dance around certain issues (we’re not just talking politics) in order to maintain the peace. Sometimes, this may allow some ill-behavior that we put up with from that one relative. It’s important to be upfront about what is acceptable and what isn’t. Discuss expectations and boundaries with your family before they arrive and set clear guidelines on issues like privacy, schedules, and responsibilities.

Likewise, be prepared to address conflicts calmly and respectfully. The holidays always heightens everyone’s stress levels. Keeping a level head through it will put you ahead of most people. Encourage open dialogue to resolve issues as they arise. Show empathy and support when necessary by prioritizing an atmosphere of understanding. Family members are trying to reconnect, but as time goes on we all are changing. Trying to refamiliarize ourselves with each other can be stressful.

Time Management and Planning

Efficiently managing your time and planning can help reduce stressful family visits. Now, this doesn’t mean that every last second needs to be planned, but it does mean that there is enough going to to prevent extended rounds of boredom and idleness in which breeds tension.

Also, don’t shoulder all the planning. Be sure to share the workload with family members to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Even Santa Claus has the elves to help. Assign specific responsibilities to ensure everyone contributes. Though try to make a point of assigning responsibilities that are well-tuned to each person’s preferences and abilities as possible.

Coping with Stress and Maintaining Boundaries

Managing family visits during the holidays can be both joyful and challenging. To make the most of this time, consider incorporating techniques for maintaining your well-being and fostering positive interactions with your family. 

Practice being fully present in the moment, which can help you stay grounded and reduce stress. Engage in mindful breathing or meditation exercises to regain focus and maintain a sense of calm. When tensions rise, take a few moments to practice deep breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale through your mouth. This can help you manage stress and anxiety.

Let your family members know your limits and expectations before and during the visit. Respectfully set boundaries related to topics of conversation, personal space, and the duration of family gatherings. Set intentions for what you hope to achieve during this time, whether it’s deepening connections, resolving conflicts, or simply enjoying quality time together.

At times, the festivities can be overwhelming, so plan moments of solitude to recharge and reflect. Take a walk, read a book, or simply have some quiet time to rejuvenate. 



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