Holidays can be the most stressful time of the year, between gift-shopping, traveling, and spending time with family members you don’t see very often. It’s hard to keep your composure when you’re stuck in holiday traffic, stressed for time with the knowledge that you still have a list as long as your arm of things to do, make, wrap, and shop for. And when you finally get everything done, you still have a day (or more) of family time to deal with.
Now, with the anxiety of political conversations looming over our heads, we go into the holiday season wary and exhausted, our nerves brittle and on edge, and conflict is seemingly unavoidable. However, there are things you can do to minimize your stress this holiday season and keep things civil at family get-together.
Here are the best ways to keep your mood–and temper–in check.
Plan your days
If you plan on spending more than a day or so at a family member’s house–or will have family coming to you–make a list of things you can do while you’re staying there that will get you out of the house or keep you occupied. Take your niece and nephew to a movie, or, if the weather is nice, organize a game of football in the backyard. Puzzles and board games are a great way to get family members involved and keep their attention on something positive. Plan out as many hours as you can so you won’t be sitting around in the midst of several conversations.
Holiday traffic includes weary drivers, anxious plane passengers, and stressed-out commuters, so be sure to plan your travel time carefully. Log on to Google Maps for directions and to get live updates about road conditions and possible setbacks. Keep snacks, bottled water, an extra blanket, road flares, a flashlight, and a cell phone/charger handy in the car, and don’t forget to stop and eat. You won’t help your mood any if you get hungry.
Keep in mind that the holidays are a time to be with the people you love, to reflect on the past year and everything it’s brought you, and, of course, to relax. Practice self-care, even if you are not at your own home, by finding ways to relax. Find a quiet spot and read for half an hour, take a long walk, or sit with a glass of wine after everyone has gone to bed. Winding down after a long day of talking and socializing is a must, especially if tensions are high.
Try to stay neutral
You are entitled to your opinion about anything, but the holidays might not be the best time to inject it into conversation. If you know a certain topic will cause discord, move on to something else or remove yourself from it entirely.
Have an aunt you fell out of favor with last year over something small? Don’t be afraid to try to mend the relationship this year. Initiate a friendly conversation and see where it goes. It might make you feel better to repair things, and it will certainly keep things from getting tense.