Can You Really Have a Peaceful Holiday?

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.


How to have a peaceful family gathering during the holidays (really!)


Image courtesy of Pixabay

Family get togethers can cause a lot of stress.  If gathering at grandma’s seems to bring out the worst in some of your kin, here are tips to help you keep the peace.

Keep a good frame of mind.  By having a healthy frame of mind going into your family events, you can keep the peace and even enjoy yourself.  

  • Be realistic.  According to some experts, the first mistake we make going into these events is setting the bar too high.  Expecting your family members to act differently from how they typically do, especially better than usual, sets you up for disappointment.  Plan to be okay with how they normally act for a healthier outlook.
  • Set firm boundaries.  Before your visit, think through what you can really tolerate.  If some people are easier to handle in a group than one-on-one, try setting the stage for the best scenario.  Establishing a time limit for your visit may help you feel better about it, too.  If you know you max out after three hours, leave before then.   
  • Let go.  If you make a habit of allowing others’ behavior to control you, let it go.  The comments from mom about your outfit, a cousin’s political commentary, your brother’s imposing religious views, are all out of your control.  You can only control your response.  Hold to your personal truths but free yourself from the weight of those jabbing, annoying, maddening conversations by not engaging them.

Participant observation.  Try stepping back from your normal role and view interactions objectively.  Observe everyone’s behavior as if you plan to write a scientific report on them later.  By becoming a neutral but interested party you can disengage your emotional response.  Here are some scenarios to try:

  • Arrange ahead of time to meet friends for lunch after the holidays.  Plan to compare notes for whose event was most challenging and buy that person lunch.  
  • Glean funny stories from your family event.  Everyone loves comedy, and you can turn your family’s insanity into entertainment for friends.
  • Talk with an understanding friend or family member after the event to compare notes and decompress.  

Don’t do it.  Some behaviors and patterns can make your family gatherings more stressful.  Here are suggestions from experts of what not to do at family events.  

  • Don’t hesitate to take a walk.  A quick tour of the neighborhood will get your blood pumping and relieve stress.  A few minutes of deep breathing and meditation can also get you back on track.
  • Don’t divulge.  If someone is prying you with personal questions, don’t hesitate to protect your privacy.  If you don’t want to discuss why a job ended or a relationship went bad, tell your nosy family member you aren’t talking about it.
  • Don’t indulge.  Alcohol lowers inhibitions, so families and bottles can lead to major drama.  Experts at Stanford University note that drug and alcohol abuse often rises during the holidays, ironically in part to cope with family members.  For those with a history of addiction it’s a prime time for relapse.  Putting aside the bottle can keep drama and stumbling blocks at bay.

Seasonally Affective Disorder.  With major holidays falling during the darkest part of the year, it’s possible some of your family members – or even you – suffer with the “winter blues.”  According to Psychology Today, some people tend to battle depression during the fall and winter months and come out of it in the spring.  The condition is thought to correlate with the amount of daylight received, and can create feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, irritability, and feelings of social rejection.  Some studies show connections with alcoholism and substance abuse.  When you’re enduring your family through the holidays, remember that someone may be fighting a battle with this disorder.

Your peaceful family party.  By going into the holidays with the right frame of mind you can help keep the peace.  Set aside your personal feelings and don’t engage in behaviors that increase stress.  Remember some people may be fighting the “winter blues.”  By keeping this advice in mind you can have a peaceful and pleasant family gathering.