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5 Ways to Avoid Stress During the Holidays

Posted by Mark Nolte on Dec 21, 2015 5:45:00 PM
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The holidays can be a very stressful time if you let it be. Especially when it comes to getting together with family.


Here are some helpful hints on how to avoid a stressful holiday season.

1. Accept that some conflict is inevitable. Some level of disagreement and friction is normal. Avoid stressing over the small stuff:

  • Pick your battles. Avoid arguing over things like who sits where at the dinner table.
  • See the bigger picture. Adjust your perspective. Your sibling may be irritable for reasons other than you, so avoid taking it personally.
  1. Know why family members fight. Family conflict is a universally common occurrence. There are several reasons why family social structures create the conditions for a variety of minor, and not so minor, forms of hostility. Learn these reasons to better understand your place in the structure and give in less to predictable, repeating patterns of interaction:
    • People notice and remember small differences in personality more than they do similarities. These small, recollected differences can create tension when you've lived with the person for many years.
    • Cumulative annoyances are the basis for a lot of interpersonal conflict. Small grievances can explode into full-blown hostility over years of close proximity. Family systems are the perfect environment for these "social allergens" to grow.
    • Siblings and parents/children are both prone to the same kind of conflict over things like competition for limited resources and personal eccentricities.


  1. Let go of resentment. Forgiveness is a powerful activity, contributing positively to overall happiness, health (including stress), and the harmony of relationships. Use these steps to forgive and let go of old conflict patterns:
    • See the positives. Has arguing with your sibling made you a more assertive person? It may seem counterintuitive, but seeing the good in the bad helps you move toward forgiveness.
    • Generate empathy. Try to imagine what would cause the person to behave rudely to you. Maybe they feel jealousy about a perceived instance of favoritism by other family members. Understand that people lash out for a reason.
    • Think of forgiveness as self-care. As mentioned, forgiveness grants a lot of positive benefits to the forgiver, emotionally and in terms of overall health. Forgive is positive for everyone involved.
  2.  Practice conflict resolution. Develop a toolbox of skills and attitudes for coping, when conflicts do arise. These steps can form the foundation.
  • Listen to what they have to say. Practice effective listening. For instance, summarize the points they have presented, and then go beyond that by asking clarifying questions.
  • Collaborate. Adopt an attitude of compromise that's equally respectful of your needs and the needs of the other person. Search for the "win/win" option. Incorporate both of your insights into problem-solving endeavors.
  • Attack the problem, not the person. Keep it as impersonal as possible. Avoid dragging personal insecurities into it, so that people don't feel a need to defend themselves.
  • 5. Have the courage to say no. If you aren't feeling a particular planned activity, give yourself a pass. Conserve your time and energy for the most important events. Over-planning and creating a hectic schedule can muddy your holiday season. This way you can avoid regret and keep yourself on track for doing what you actually want to do.

So while holiday stress may be seasonal. It might be a good idea to spent some extra time with your counselor or therapist. If your holiday anxiety seems severe or is interfering with your job or home life, talk to your doctor or to a counselor.

One easy way to talk to a counselor is through online counseling. All you need is a laptop computer, tablet or smart phone with an internet connection or a cell signal. Then you can log on at a time that is convenient for you to talk to an online counselor.

If you think online counseling would be something you would be interested in. Find out more by clicking on the blue button below.

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Topics: Relationships