Skip To Content

    14 Ways To Get Through Tense Holiday Family Time Like a Pro

    *Breathes deeply, visualizes a breezy meadow, pounds wine*

    If your holiday plans involve hanging with your family — and your family stresses you out beyond all reason — you may be currently stress-crying into your carry-on.

    Totally understandable. Here are some helpful ways to get through it all unscathed...ish.

    1. Be aware that the holiday season makes the emotional stakes feel crazy high.

    2. So adjust your expectations accordingly.

    3. Identify each and every thing that's likely to trigger you.

    4. Then make a game plan for how you'll handle each one.

    5. Smile and nod.

    6. Make sure you have an ally, even if that means bringing one with you.

    7. Or have one on standby.

    8. Come up with a mantra that's appropriate for your specific family situation.

    9. Pretend you're an anthropologist.

    Seriously. One way to get some distance from intense family shit, Bonior says, is to pretend that you're doing an anthropological study on how this group of people celebrates the holidays, observing closely but keeping an emotional distance, so that whatever shenanigans erupt can't get under your skin. It's a light and playful way to take family stuff in stride.

    10. Or pretend that you're meeting these people for the first time.

    It's not so easy to decide that years of arguments, resentment, and other frustrations don't exist, but if you can try to find a fresh start, you're less likely to be one slight away from falling apart. Bonior suggests a thought experiment: Pretending that you have no history at all with your family; that this Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve, etc. is your first time with this group. This will help you be a little more forgiving than usual (because you won't be tallying something as the millionth time that thing has happened) which will make you more relaxed all around.

    11. Don't self-medicate with booze.

    It's not always easy to know where to draw the line with alcohol during the holidays; the fact that it's a festive time of year makes you want to drink more than usual. The fact that shit might get super tense also makes you want to drink more than usual. As long as you're not trying to stay sober, it's not necessarily a bad thing that we tend to imbibe a little more during the holidays, says Webb.

    When things could potentially become a shitshow, though, is when drinking is your coping mechanism, and the only tool in your arsenal. Feeling like you can't deal without being buzzed or drunk puts you on a slippery slope of being convinced you can't handle business sober, which makes you feel powerless, which makes you rely on drinking more and more, which can cause you to develop a dependence, says Webb. If you find that you're drinking to the point of being badly hungover, embarrassing yourself, or losing self-control, it's a sign that your drinking has gone too far.

    12. Stay grounded by sticking to at least one part of your usual routine.

    13. Really make sure that going home at all is good for you.

    14. Schedule post-holiday self-care.