How to Cope with the Stress of Family Gatherings

Woman Stressed at Holidays

Relieving Holiday Stress at Family Gatherings

The holidays are coming and along with them you may be expecting your stomach to churn and your frustration levels to rise. Yes, it’s the dreaded family gathering where Uncle Tony will once again regale the group with his impersonations. Or… you fill in the blanks, everyone has difficult family members. What to do? Here are some tips on ways to decrease the suffering and actually enjoy time spent with extended family this year.

1. Take Control

You’re in charge of your own behavior. Choose to limit interactions with those you find offensive. Decide in advance what your responses will be when you must interact with them. You may even decide to forego a certain family event if that person attends. You deserve a peaceful holiday.

2. Change Your Thinking by Simplifying

Much of the stress at holiday times is the effort to do too much in too little time. We become overtired and frustrated when things aren’t perfect. Decide to cook less, decorate less, spend less and choose only those activities you truly enjoy. The stress we feel is not necessarily related to people, but to our own expectations.

3. Hot Topics

Avoid topics of conversation that bring conflict to the family gathering. We all know what they are. Often they relate to giving advice, political issues and the like. Be ready to take a short break from the gathering rather than engage in an argument or “scene.”

4. Don’t Expect Miracles

Some things aren’t going to change. It’s important to remember that every one of us is imperfect. In the holiday season, go ahead and extend grace to those who irritate or disappoint. After all, it’s a season of love. Don’t expect the actual event to be “magazine picture perfect,” but do your best to make it pleasant.

Jan Pierce is a retired teacher and reading specialist. She is the author of Homegrown Readers: Simple Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Read and Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged. Both are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Jan lives with her husband in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and specializes in parenting, education and family Life articles. Find Jan at



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