There’s a chill in the air, it’s only October but the holidays are right around the corner.  Preparing for the upcoming holiday season is necessary if you have difficult family relationships. It’s also necessary if you have a job, kids, a spouse, pets, parents etc. Family gatherings are difficult because often our expectations are unrealistically high and we fall into our set role in the family.  If you have challenging family dynamics there are many things you can do to prepare for the holiday season, you may never have a picture perfect Thanksgiving, but there are many things you can do to reduce your own anxiety and stress.

Family relationships can be difficult. In even the best families there are certain expectations that usually aren’t met. Even the most successful and well adjusted of us can fall back on old familiar roles when we spend time with family. Each family member brings their own expectations to the gathering, and rarely are they the same as everyone else’s. Add to that the stress of the holiday season in general, parenting, hosting and basically just living life, and the holidays can be too much for us.

While it would be wonderful if we could fix what was broken in our families, trying to do so over the holidays is a recipe for disaster. If you have difficult family relationships that you would like to address, the holiday season is not the best time to do so, wait until after the holidays to try to work on those important relationships. Since you aren’t likely to fix everything before the holidays, what can you do to manage them better so everyone can have a nice time?

Preparing for the Upcoming Holiday Season

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

If you can do it ahead of time, do. Plan the meal out weeks before and start checking items off as you go. If you’re hosting the gathering make side dishes and desserts in advance. Polish the silver and dust off the good china a week before the event rather than the morning of the gathering. It takes some planning and organization but you’ll be much more relaxed and able to enjoy your family if you aren’t running around trying to get everything done on the day of the meal.

Shop Online

Shopping during the holiday season is stressful, and each year it seems to get worse. Online shopping is a godsend to busy individuals. Not only do you save time shopping in the store but you may actually save money by avoiding impulse items and you can have many gifts wrapped and shipped to the recipient.

Say No

The holidays are busy enough without committing yourself to a task you don’t want to do. It’s okay to say no. Really, it is. Try it, just say “No”. It’s so important to take care of yourself all year long, but especially important over the holidays. Unless you enjoy the task, don’t do it. It may feel awkward at first, you may feel incredible guilt, but trust me, you will enjoy the holidays a lot more if you do. Those around you will too.


Get Some Rest

Take a bubble bath, get a massage or just sit quietly and read a good book. Now that the days are shorter, you can go to bed earlier without feeling like you’re missing out on something. Studies show we are at our best with at least 7 hours of sleep each night. If you aren’t getting that many it’s time to make some adjustments to your schedule. Get some Zs and you’ll be able to tackle just about anything, even a difficult family member.


Journaling is a wonderful way to gather your thoughts and feelings at the end of each day and make some sense out of them. It’s also a wonderful to way to vent.


Exercise lowers blood pressure, prevents overeating and nervous eating and soothes the mind in times of stress. Exercising also releases endorphins, the pleasure chemical in the brain. Carve out some time each day to get some exercise. A brisk 20 minute walk will make you feel refreshed and better able to manage all that needs doing during the busy holiday season.