How to Avoid Holiday Anxiety with Your Family

Canonsburg native Perry Como was the first to say, “there’s no place like home for the holidays”. For some folks, Christmas vacation includes going someplace warm, but most people in Pittsburgh are trading the sun for relatives this year – because nothing beats Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie! All families have their quirks and issues, all of which seem amplified during the extravagance of the holidays. Whether your family’s anxiety triggers come from them being dramatic, toxic or loud and a bit crazy, here are a few tips to help you cope, stay sane, and actually enjoy your holiday this year because, for the holidays, you can’t beat home sweet home!

Holiday Anxiety Tip #1: Set Appropriate Boundaries

We all have those relatives that are a bit much to handle. Maybe they have overbearing political views or can drink Charlie Sheen under the table (or worse, are capable of both!). Maybe they mean well, but each backhanded compliment from your mother and great-aunt inches you closer and closer to your breaking point. As grown humans with our own opinions and experiences, it’s impossible to get along with everyone – including everyone in your own family.

This year, don’t hesitate to set boundaries. Let your loved ones know you appreciate their input, however, you are an adult fully capable of making your own decisions. Christmas Day is not the time to discuss those decisions. Remind them that the holidays are a time to cherish our loved ones rather than try to influence them in any way. By taking the higher road and communicating your emotions and feelings in a safe space through love and respect, your family will most likely understand and go easier on you this holiday season. Unfortunately, there are those who have a much harder time respecting boundaries, which means you may have to be a bit more firm with them in your approach. Do your best to distance yourself from those people and make an extra effort to enjoy the company of those you do get along with.

Most importantly, remember you are allowed to say “no” and can even leave if you are ever uncomfortable in a situation. Just because someone is “blood” does not mean they have a right to make you feel insignificant – whether that’s during the holidays or any other time of the year. Take a breather, go for a walk, or sit on the porch and watch the snowfall. Go upstairs to read, meditate, or journal. Call a sponsor, therapist, or friend. If the situation is so bad you need to leave the event entirely, then leave the event entirely. Remember, this is your holiday as much as it is your family’s holiday.

Tip #2: Be On The Same Page

This tip is typically aimed at a spouse or significant other, however, it can also apply to friends, parents, sponsors, or your favorite aunt or cousin. Before any holiday events even happen, it is crucial to have a supportive and open dialogue with your spouse, friend, parent, etc about any expectations or stressful situations this holiday could entail. This way, you can already start to mentally prepare how you and your partner are going to deal with these scenarios if they do occur.

This will aid in any potential family conflicts and keep you and your partner in tune. You can prep for any issue ranging from your child’s behavior to sticking to your holiday weight loss goals. This tip is extremely important because this validates that at least one person is in your corner ready to support you and has your back if things go awry.

Tip #3: Quit Trying to Impress Everyone Else

It’s human nature to want to be liked and show the world you have it all. But let’s be realistic, no one is perfect. For many, the stress of entertaining is overwhelming and can even ruin the entire holiday. These feelings of stress and anxiety due to holiday entertaining can lead to resentment, which is the last thing you want to associate with the “most wonderful time of the year”.

This year, relax a bit and do what you can without killing yourself. Ten years from now, your family won’t remember the table settings that would impress Martha Stewart. Or how spotless your floors where. No. Instead, they are going to remember the laughter from singing Christmas carols. Or the spontaneously fun whipped cream fight that broke out over pecan pie. Your family and in-laws will be much more appreciative and impressed by a warm and caring home vs. a strict and cold one.

Tip #4: Take Care of Yourself Before You Take Care of Others

One of my favorite quotes is “You cannot pour from an empty glass”. Yes, this is the season of giving. But before you can give to others, you have to give to yourself first. Like I said before, this is your holiday too. You have to enjoy it just as much as you want your loved ones to enjoy it. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Don’t forget about the healthy habits you’ve been cultivating all year. Just because there are tables of Christmas cookies doesn’t mean you suddenly forget what a vegetable is. Drink enough water, get enough sleep, and remember to take all the necessary medication. Plan ahead so you have time for self-care along with everything else on your to-do list. Say “no” to the things that will exhaust and stretch you thin. Journal, meditate, do some yoga, and do anything else that can help you reset and refocus.

Need help this time of the year?

And while you may be doing your best to cope, remember there is no shame in seeking more help. At Cristina Panaccione and Associates we have three locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh to help you if you need us.  We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients. Check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you through this hectic holiday season.

Image Credit – Adobe Stock

* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.