Mental Well-Being

How to Reduce Stress Around Family During the Holidays

March 12, 2020

The holidays can be an exciting time to take some time off work, gather with loved ones, and celebrate. Although spending time with friends and family can be a great way to rejuvenate and feel loved, it can also cause stress. Returning home for the holidays to be surrounded by family constantly for several days or even a week can cause stress, and if your relationship with your family is tenuous, it can be downright uncomfortable or unsafe. Here are some ways you can give yourself the space you need while still enjoying the holidays with your family.

Check in with yourself and see what you’ll need to feel comfortable.

I’m an introvert so when my family all gathers together, I often find myself feeling overwhelmed and drained by all of the people and the loud talking. Because I know this about myself, I’ve made a habit of scurrying away by myself for 10 or 15 minutes during large family gatherings. I’m not being rude and it’s not like I don’t want to be there—I just need to give my brain some space to relax and recharge. Similarly, check in with yourself and see what the basic things that trigger your stress with your family might be, and take a simple step to take some time for yourself amidst the craziness.

Sleep somewhere other than your childhood home.

If heading home for the holidays is especially stressful for you, make arrangements to stay the night with a friend or stay in a hotel if you can afford it. You could do this for just a few nights while you are home or the whole stay. Having your own personal space to retreat to and to end your day the way you want can help you unwind and decompress after a long day of family stuff.

Leave the house at least once a day.

If you do stay at the home where the rest of your family will be staying, make plans to leave the house each day. Get coffee with a friend, offer to run some errands, or even just go for a walk. Taking some time for yourself amidst the holiday craziness can help you feel centered.

Set boundaries with your family and stick to them.

Maybe Uncle Joe and Aunt Beth have drastically different views than you and your nuclear family and discussing this causes tension and distress during family gatherings. Set boundaries with your family about what you do and do not want to discuss. That’s not to say that discussing controversial topics such as politics should be off limits, but if it comes up don’t be afraid to tell Uncle Joe and Aunt Beth you’ll only discuss topics with certain boundaries.

Maybe you just started dating someone new and your whole family wants to ask you about it incessantly but you’re not comfortable discussing it. Tell them you won’t talk about it with them. Obviously, this is easier said than done and takes a certain amount of emotional labor, but know that you don’t need to do or say anything you don’t want to.

Enjoy the break from your routine and stay appreciative.

Try and relax and enjoy the break from your daily routine. Maybe you’ve traveled back to your hometown in another city or state. Visit the places you enjoyed as a child. Enjoy the delicious food and traditions your family has each holiday. Take in as much of the holiday experience as you’d like, and don’t be afraid to take a break or stay somewhere else.

You don’t have to go home for the holidays if you feel unsafe.

If your relationship with your family makes you feel unsafe, you don’t have to spend the holidays with them. You’re allowed to spend the holidays with a chosen family, friends, or a significant other and their family. Put yourself first and do what makes you feel safest and most loved.

Good luck and happy holidays!