The holidays officially begin in just a couple of weeks. No doubt if you have stressful relationships with family members this time can be challenging and anxiety producing. As a San Francisco therapist I work with people to help them manage stressful relationships during the holidays.

The holidays are particularly difficult to navigate if you have challenging relationships with family members. We want the holidays to be special so we will often not say what we’re feeling to those who might get on our nerves. Stuffing down your feelings at holiday gatherings might make the event less dramatic, but stuffing down your feelings can lead to all kinds of problems including – anxiety, insomnia, over-imbibing, resentment and anger. It’s best to deal with these emotions with a professional and ideally before the holidays occur. If that isn’t possible there are some things you can do to make the season a bit more enjoyable.

Managing Stressful Relationships During the Holidays

Set Boundaries – You don’t have to attend all the holiday gatherings. It’s perfectly ok to stay home and watch It’s A Wonderful Life for the 37th time instead of going to your sister’s husband’s niece’s holiday party. Choose to attend the events you want to go to and stick to that. While you shouldn’t have to explain if asked you can simply say you had other plans on those days. Don’t feel guilty for doing what is best for you.

Don’t Engage – If your brother always tries to bait you with an argument simply don’t engage. I know, that’s easier to say than do, but you can walk away. You can say something like “I know you are passionate about this topic and we can certainly discuss it at some other time, today I would just prefer to spend the holiday with you and get caught up on the things you have been doing”.

Phone a Friend – Or text message a friend when the celebration becomes to hectic or overwhelming. We all have that one friend who knows just the right thing to say when things get hairy. Send them a text when you’re feeling like you might lose it so you can laugh at their silly take on the event.

Don’t Over-imbibe – The holidays are a time when people tend to overdo it with food and drink. Don’t drink so much that you lose all inhibition and start telling people exactly what you think. Set a limit and stick to it.

Set Time Limits – If you have to attend an event that you aren’t looking forward to then set a time limit. This works well for events you’re hosting as well. Set an end time to any party or gathering you’re hosting.