Magazine article Work & Family Life

18 Great Stress Busters for the Holiday Season

Magazine article Work & Family Life

18 Great Stress Busters for the Holiday Season

Article excerpt

Whether we're married or single, parents, stepparents, aunts, uncles or grandparents, we all have a vision of what we would like the holiday season to be. Our visions may not be the same, because we grew up in different families and different places but chances are that we share many of the same expectations. We want holidays to be the way we remember them or an idealized version of that memory. And increasingly, as Frank Pittman, M.D., the well-known family therapist from Atlanta, observes, we "package our expectations" of family love at this time of year. "We want the occasions to be perfect and we want all our dreams-of connection, harmony, joy and bliss-to come true."

Family ties may be tightest at this time, Dr. Pittman says, but so are family tensions. While holidays give families a chance to reconnect and rememher their shared past, they can also provide fertile ground for conflict. Deciding whom to invite to your house or whose family to visit or how much travel you can (or care to) manage are potential sources of tension. When singles as well as married couples visit their parents, they expect a happy reunion but often find instead that old patterns of behavior are played out as sibling rivalry and past grudges resurface.

Here's how to anticipate some of these problems and add enjoyment to your holidays.

For family get-togethers

1. Holiday togetherness has its pitfalls, but just because someone gets angry or something awkward happens, don't let that ruin your trip or the holiday. Take it in stride. It happens in every family.

2. Beforewarned, as Hara Estroff Marano says, that "it is the nature of family rituals to try to stuff you back into old family roles." But, she adds, "You don't have to be the fixer-upper or the kid sister if you don't want to be."

3. See the holidays as a good time to catch up and have positive interactions with relatives but not the best time to repair old wounds or bring up difficult topics like telling your cousin you think her husband is drinking too much.

4. Plan for potentially awkward times such as the hours between lunch and dinner. Offer to stay with the kids while others go to a movie. Organize a walk or have some board games ready. But, Marano cautions, "Don't try to overcontrol everyone's interactions in order to put a lid on conflict and clashes"

5. Don't try to do everything yourself or you'll end up resenting others. Decide ahead of time with your friends, spouse or kids who will do or bring what. You'll find that everyone will enjoy the holiday more.

6 Be cooL It isn't worth arguing over every small criticism or getting resentful if your parents give you a lot of advice you feel you don't need. A sense of balance and of humor will go a long way to relieve tensions that might spoil your visit. …

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