It’s that time of year when families come together to celebrate and sometimes, argue, over the holiday dinner table. While the holidays are often marketed as a joyous time, they can also bring unique challenges with loved ones. However, there are ways to cope with these stresses and make it through.

Unmet expectations

One common issue that arises during the holidays revolves around expectations. Wanting everything to be perfect or different than usual can create additional pressure and disappointment. To navigate this, therapists recommend having an honest conversation with yourself and the people around you. Accepting that your family members may behave as they always do and preparing accordingly can lead to less disappointment and better outcomes.

Stressful logistics

Trying to make everyone happy and managing complicated schedules can be overwhelming, especially in blended or large extended families. Mental preparation can be helpful in staying calm. Understanding that there will always be things out of your control, but being more expectant of what may happen, can make the holiday season less stressful.

Rusty relationships

Interactions with extended or estranged family members can also cause stress during the holidays, particularly if it’s the only time of year you see them. Creating boundaries and taking the space you need is important. Focus your energy on engaging with those who are not as estranged or stress-inducing. Remember, holiday time doesn’t obligate you to reconcile issues you’re not ready to address.

Uncomfortable questions

Love lives, careers, and life decisions are common topics of inquiry from family members during the holidays. Dealing with relentless questions or unsolicited advice can bring discomfort. Establishing boundaries, either ahead of time or in the moment, can be crucial. If setting boundaries is challenging, try redirecting or vaguely responding to unwanted questions. The goal is to avoid arguments and maintain a level of respect for each other’s boundaries.

Political polarization

The holidays can provide an opportunity for uncomfortable conversations, especially around politics and values. If differences of opinion exist among family members, conflict or discomfort may arise. It’s perfectly acceptable to decide not to engage in political discussions and to ask your family members to respect your decision beforehand. If your request is not honored, you have the choice to not attend the gathering. In the moment, you can choose whether or not to engage in the conversation and reiterate your boundary.

Remember, the holiday season should be a time of joy and connection. By following these tips and focusing on self-care, you can navigate the challenges that may arise and make the most of your family gatherings.

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