How to Cope With Family Stressors During The Holidays

So you can thrive and enjoy this holiday season!

By: Lexy Parsons

When it comes to the holiday season, there are lots of emotions involved. While feelings of love, laughter, and gratitude are surely floating in the air, it’s not always a joyous time for everyone. In fact, the holidays can be a tough time for many. Between jam-packed schedules, holiday shopping and travel, lack of routine, and of course, inevitable family stressors, feelings of stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and loneliness are all too common. An overwhelming 88% of people experience holiday stress, making it more difficult to sleep and stay healthy. But the thing is, holiday stress is rather predictable. Whether it’s financial stress, family stress, or stress surrounding a healthy holiday, we know what to expect. If we know what’s coming, we can take steps to prevent, manage, and fix it! With a little preparation, learning how to cope with holiday stress is easier than you think. No matter how you’re spending your holiday, we’re here to help you enjoy the holiday season ahead.

8 Stress-Relief Techniques to Manage Holiday Stress

While we can’t always prevent stressful situations from occurring, we can control how we respond to them! So before those holiday stressors get the best of you, read on for the best tips on how to cope with holiday stress this season. 

#1 Set Healthy Boundaries 

Setting healthy family boundaries is not only essential during the holiday season but also year-round! Protecting your time, energy, and values can reduce stress and help you establish how you want to be treated, leading to healthier relationships and, ultimately a happier holiday. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No: This could be to parties, spending time with family members, or agreeing to tasks that you’re not volunteering for.

Communicate Your Wants and Needs: Let your family members know what is working for you and what isn’t. Having an open line of communication can lead to healthier, less stressful conversations. 

Stay Consistent With Your Boundaries: Sometimes, family members like to push your buttons — and it can be exhausting! Stand firm in what you believe to prevent miscommunication. 

#2 Be Mindful of Your Triggers 

If you know you’re going to be triggered by certain topics of conversation, like politics, money, or Aunt Sally asking “when you’re going to finally settle down,” plan ahead. Have a coping mechanism in place — like pre-planned questions to divert the topic to something new, an exit strategy, or someone who can jump in to support you in order to prevent negative feelings from arising.

Know what topics trigger you, and avoid or limit conversations with family members who tend to bring these up.

And if you find yourself in a triggering situation, have a backup plan in place so you can excuse yourself if needed! More on that below.

#3 Prioritize Sleep 

If you struggle with family stressors as it is, the last thing you want to do is jeopardize sleep! Optimizing your snooze time not only lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, but it also benefits mood, decision-making, communication, and mental clarity. This means you’ll be less irritable and less likely to say something out of rashness. Try to maintain a normal sleep schedule — including a sleep routine — and aim for 7-9 hours per night!  

Here are some ideas:

  • Make a bedtime, and try to stay consistent
  • Limit screen time in the evening, and avoid blue light at least an hour before bed
  • Spend time outside and soak in the natural light (especially in the morning!) to regulate your sleep-wake cycle 
  • Set your sleep environment — keep it cool, dark, and noise-free! Sleep masks, earplugs, whatever you gotta do. 

RELATED: These 5 Minute Meditations May Help You Sleep Better Tonight

#4 Have A Self-Care Routine 

While your normal routine is likely to be out of sync, developing some sort of self-care routine can help you survive the holiday mayhem and diminish family stress. On the top of our list? Eat a nutrient-dense diet (stick to whole foods and keep it colorful), get plenty of water, and stay active when you can. 

If you’ve got those down, here are some ideas:

Have a Daily Mindfulness Practice: This could be meditation, yoga, or simply breathing! Try squeezing this FitOn Daily Breath meditation into your day.

Wind Down Your Day: Wind down with a warming Epsom salt bath and float the stress from the day away. For some extra stress relief, a few drops of Lavender essential oil can do wonders.

Try Journaling: After a long day, release any negative emotions by journaling whatever’s on your mind. No judgment!!

#5 Set Aside Time to Disconnect Alone

While 15 minutes or more is ideal, spending even five minutes alone (distraction-free) can do wonders for your health.

  • Go for a walk in nature 
  • Wake up a few minutes before everyone else and enjoy your cup of coffee in silence 
  • Listen to a podcast or audiobook
  • Find a quiet place to read a book
  • Press play on a 5-minute FitOn meditation
  • Simply find a quiet space to close your eyes and breathe

#6 Practice Gratitude

When family stressors are peaking, take a step back and breathe. How to cope with holiday stress might be as simple as practicing gratitude! Even in the heat of the moment, there’s something to be grateful for. While this can be anything, why not practice gratitude for your family? Ask yourself, why are you grateful for your loved ones? Is it their kind heart? Delicious, home cooking? Ability to listen whenever you need an ear? Remind yourself what you’re grateful for and repeat, repeat, repeat until the stress and tension fade away.

#7 Have A Back-Up Plan In Case Of Emergencies

Put your therapist’s phone number on speed dial, phone a friend, go for a drive, or get some fresh air with an outdoor walk. Whatever you have to do, make a backup plan that will allow you to escape the stressful situation at hand and recollect your thoughts. 

#8 Surround Yourself With Positivity

If the stress of seeing family has you feeling overwhelmed or anxious, allocate time for the people or things that bring you joy. Whether it’s volunteering, spending time in nature, or hanging with friends (or your pet!), surround yourself with positivity. 

The Takeaway

If you’re heading into the holiday season feeling more stressed than excited, you’re not alone. It’s completely normal to feel a wide range of emotions. But, try to remember: the holidays are meant to be enjoyed! When it comes to the holidays, planning ahead and being proactive can make all the difference. Use these tips for how to cope with holiday stress to prepare for whatever comes your way this holiday season and make this year the most stress-free season yet.