The holiday season can be merry and bright, but it can also be stress-provoking and anxiety-inducing. There’s travel stress, budgetary considerations, party planning, and, of course, the nosy family members. If you’re not prepared, you can easily slip into some bad feelings and a high-stress state. But don’t worry, by keeping a few things in mind before setting off to your hometown, you can manage family holiday stress. Here are three tips to keep the holidays stress-free.
Weigh Your Options
First, consider if it is even necessary to see your family for the holiday season. Many of us feel obligated to return to our hometowns and get back into the routines of our childhood for nostalgia’s sake or family guilt but this is unnecessary. That’s right- You don’t have to go if you don’t want to!
Before deciding if returning home for the holidays is your next best move, consider these factors:
If you’ve moved far away from the rest of your family, getting home can be expensive. After factoring the cost of gas, flights, and accommodation, you might find it more valuable to put that money to use elsewhere. Gift-giving is another hidden cost. If you’re expected to have a present for every little cousin and great aunt, that can eat into your daily expenses.
Travel can also take up valuable free time that you’re able to spend away from home. Think about if your trip (and all the associated costs) is worth it to you.
Take your mental and emotional wellbeing seriously. If seeing your family will put you in a dangerous mental state, do not see them. Look at the big picture. If 15 minutes with your favorite cousin will make up for three days with your parents, great! But if not, don’t be afraid to make a tough call to keep yourself safe.
If you’ve decided that heading home for the holidays simply isn’t in the cards for one reason or another, you may want to consider phone calls or video chats to get a quick family connection that you can easily remove yourself from.
If you’ve decided that going home is feasible for you, with some stipulations, honor your needs. Boundary-setting doesn’t have to be harsh, and you can establish them whenever you’re ready. Boundaries help everyone understand that actions have consequences.
For example, if you don’t want to talk about your recent divorce, let others know when it comes up in conversation that you will not be speaking about it. Share the expected consequences using an if-then statement. Here’s an example: If you continue to ask me about my divorce, I will be leaving the dinner table.
When you return home, take it easy. Ground yourself, engage in hobbies, and try to process the holiday stress in a healthy way.
If you’re feeling worried about the upcoming holiday season, we can help. At Valued Living Therapy, we offer in-person therapy sessions in the Twin Cities area and via telehealth throughout Minnesota. We are inclusive of all relationships, sexual orientations, and identities, and passionate about helping you make lasting change to live your best life.