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The annual holiday season is quite a paradox. On paper, it is a time of collective joy and celebration. In practice, the holidays far too frequently provoke stress and conflict. This goes double if you have family members who seem determined to undermine the entire process. These frustrating folks can change a room’s temperature with just a single comment or facial expression.

What can you do when you truly wish to celebrate the season but feel a sense of dread when contemplating the actual experience? Fortunately, there are some proven self-help steps you can take to ease personal anxiety. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

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7 Tips to Navigate Frustrating Family Members During the Holiday Season

1. Manage Your Expectations 

It’s fine to be excited about the holidays. Do not dampen your upbeat anticipation. However, you can add a healthy dose of reality to the mix. Reasonable expectations can reduce the likelihood of disappointment. Don’t expect people to suddenly change or for the start of the planet to become one of unity. You can walk that fine line of compromise. Some folks will be annoying, but it does not have to stop you from creating positive memories.

2. Adjust Your Mindset

When you’re a kid, you look forward to the holiday season with unabashed optimism. While this may not be possible today, you’ll want to check yourself. Don’t allow yourself to sink into pure pessimism. As touched on in #1 above, there is a healthy balance to be found. 

A man sits at the dinner table while talking to an in-law. This could represent having akward conversations during the holidays. Learn how a family therapist in Columbus, OH can offer support by seaching for a "family therapist Columbus Ohio" today.

3. Prepare in Advance For Potentially Controversial Conversations 

It’s not always healthy to declare certain topics are off-limits — especially if there are children present. You don’t want to teach them that avoidance is a productive option. So, sure, keep tabs on the conversations, and feel free to change subjects if it feels right. But, since dicey topics will inevitably be introduced, it might be best to prepare in advance for yourself. Here are two suggestions to get you started:

  • You have the option to not engage. This is not the same as a silent agreement.
  • Lead by example by seeking common ground. Even the most contentious guest will have areas in which you agree. Find them. 

4. Don’t Overindulge

If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start now. If you do, practice moderation. Alcohol can make you more likely to speak without a filter. You can also become quite argumentative. You can’t control what others do (see #6 below), but you can very much modulate what role you play in the proceedings. 

5. Control What is In Your Control 

This might be a blow to your ego, but you cannot control everything. Therefore, well before the parties and get-togethers begin, decide to control how you react to any provocation. 

6. Practice Self-Care

In the build-up to the holidays and all during the season, take good care of yourself. Don’t use the calendar as an excuse to eat poorly or skip the gym. Also, get yourself into a steady sleep rhythm.

A close up of a family's hands holding a paper cutout of a house. This could symbolize the support a family therapist in Columbus, OH can offer for the holiday season. Search for family counseling columbus ohio for support today.

7. Work as a Team

If you have a spouse and/or older children, talk with them beforehand about making a holiday gathering as fun and peaceful as possible. Discuss your triggers and concerns. Work as a team to reign in problems before they escalate. It can be very useful to create a signal or code word of some sort that you and your family can use when help is needed. If you’re the guests at an event, agree in advance about a family exit strategy, if needed. 

Begin Working With A Family Therapist in Columbus, OH

If all of this feels too overwhelming to handle on your own, I invite you to reach out and talk about it. Our team of therapists would be honored to support you in your therapy journey from our Columbus, OH-based practice. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps:

  1. Contact Blue Boat Counseling by using the button below
  2. Meet with a caring therapist 
  3. Start navigating the holidays with your family!

Other Services Offered with Blue Boat Counseling

Family therapy isn’t the only service offered by Blue Boat Counseling. Our team would be happy to offer support with a variety of mental health concerns including anxiety therapy, depression therapy, and military veteran therapy. We are also happy to offer teen and family therapy and online therapy across the state of Ohio. Visit our blog to learn more today for helpful info.