How to Cope With Family Stressors During The Holidays

So you can thrive and enjoy this holiday season!

By: Lexy Parsons

While the holiday season is thought of as a joyous time filled with food, family, friends, and fun, it’s not always the light-hearted environment we envision. In fact, for many, the holidays can be one of the toughest times of the year. Think: overwhelming schedules, gift shopping, lack of routine, holiday travel, and the inevitable family stressors. With that said, it’s not surprising to learn that 88% of people experience holiday stress, according to a 2018 research study. But with a little preparation and a pocket full of tactics, learning how to cope with holiday stress is easier than you think. Whether you’re spending the holiday with your family or not, we’re here to help you survive (and thrive) this holiday season.

7 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, or Aunt Sally asking “when you’re going to finally settle down,” plan ahead and have a coping mechanism in place 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. Meaning, you’ll be less irritable and less likely to say something out of rashness. Aim for 7-9 hours per night!  

#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, 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!

Wind Down Your Day: Wind down with a warming Epsom salt bath and float the stress from the day away. 

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
  • 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. 

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.