Seven Simple Tips for Coping With Holiday Stress

1. Remember that most families are far from perfect.

Social scientists have reported that 85 percent of families are dysfunctional in some way, making it the norm to be considered a dysfunctional family. To quote Mary Karr, “I think a dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.” Rather than feeling embarrassed by your family’s eccentricity, try to embrace it and keep it in perspective.If you have reason to be concerned that the situation will truly get terrible for anyone, try to have a backup plan such as leaving early or separating to take a walk and returning after a break.

2. Focus on doing what you really enjoy; don’t try to do everything.

Likely some of your traditions are meaningful and fun, while others are just done because that’s the way it’s always been. Consider letting go of the routines that don’t really add much to your holiday experience and just add to your exhaustion.

3. Take time to relax.

Play with your kids, cuddle with the pets, or spend time alone if that’s what it takes. A constantly busy schedule is not relaxing for most people, so try to plan some down time for yourself.

4. Change it up.

Try something new and easier. If you are the host for the holiday, simplify the meal plan or ask everyone to pitch in and contribute something. A celebration is always better when the hosts are happy too.

5. Practice gratitude.

Everyone has someone or something to be grateful for. Try not to take anything for granted. Even if you are missing someone this season, be grateful for the people that are with you.

6. Spread out the family visits.

Don’t try to visit the whole family on the same day. This can create too much stress for everyone involved, especially if you have young children. I have worked with young couples for whom both sets of parents are divorced. Taking the children to see all of the grandparents can mean four homes to visit, which is about three too many for any one day.

7. Be mindful of what you’re celebrating.

It might be a holy day, a day off from work, or a chance to see friends and family. Celebrate something, and focus on the people who are with you at this time in your life. Life is very precious and worth celebrating, even with all of its imperfections.