The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family, but what if your family drives you nuts? Whether it’s your mom’s passive aggressive criticism, your sister’s overbearing competitiveness, or your uncle’s never ending stream of inappropriate jokes that gets your hackles up, the holiday season can be prime irritation time. Here are a few simple strategies to make your holiday season merrier:
- Stand up for yourself: If a certain behavior really upsets you, say so. Don’t lose your temper, but do be honest about how the other person’s words or actions make you feel. Be as direct and clear as possible, and use “I” statements — “I feel like I’m not appreciated when you criticize me while I’m trying to help” — rather than lashing out in anger or blame.
- Pick your battles: Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean you have to be combative. Sometimes it’s better just to let lesser irritants slide for the sake of peace and harmony.
- Don’t drink too much: Alcohol inhibits judgment and makes you more likely to make impulsive decisions or say things you’ll regret. You may think a few drinks will help you deal with difficult feelings, but you’ll feel better in the long run if you are careful to keep your wits about you.
- Remind yourself it’s only temporary: No matter how painful your interaction with a certain family member may be, remember that it will be over soon. The holidays are only a few days out of each year. Sometimes it can be hard to keep this perspective when family members push your buttons. It’s easy to regress right back to childhood, when everything feels like a big deal and seems like it will last forever. It won’t.
- Take five: Allow yourself some time away to decompress, either alone or with a trusted ally, such as your spouse or a favorite cousin. Go for a walk. Drive to the store to pick up more ice or snacks. Look at the stars on the back porch. Taking some time out for quiet, or a laugh with someone who doesn’t annoy you, can make a world of difference.
- Don’t expect perfection, from others or yourself: Nobody is perfect, including you. Maybe the reason your parents’ criticism or your brother’s “perfect” kids bother you so much is that you’re putting pressure on yourself to live up to an unrealistic standard. Just relax. Allow yourself to be who you are, and maybe the rest of the family will follow suit.
- Keep your sense of humor: Chances are, you already have a mental list of everything your family does that rubs you the wrong way. Try to change your perspective so you can laugh about instead of getting angry. Turn it into a private joke between you and your spouse or sister or brother. Make it into a game. Make wagers on how many times Aunt Ethel will ask you when you’re going to get married. Eat a cookie every time your dad tells that story you hate. If you feel comfortable, and if you’re sure your intentions aren’t malicious, let your family in on the joke. Humor can make difficult situations sting less and help to bring people closer together.
What other strategies do you use to get through difficult family gatherings? Share below!