12/18/2014 12:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Dealing With Turkeys at Your Holiday Table


Ahh, the holidays. A time when many come together with family and my work phone rings off the hook. How can a time meant to represent gratitude and merriment bring so much stress?

F-A-M-I-L-Y. Family, family, makes me cry (OK, not a cheer you necessarily say out loud, but admit it, it may ring true for you sometimes).

Almost one-fourth of Americans report that relatives are responsible for increasing their stress over the holidays

Maybe it is an uncle consistently has too much to drink and gets on a political rampage, a sibling who loves to bring up your past mistakes, a mother-in-law who makes comments about how, "That is interesting. I have never made stuffing like that."

Sure, your family may not be perfect.

Drop the desire for perfection and focus on being Better Than Perfect.

Regardless of who, or even what, is causing you stress, here are five tips to help combat the stress so you can actually enjoy your holiday.

  1. Ditch the perfectionistic expectations: Stop expecting them to change. Just because you think they should be different doesn't mean they will be. Sure, people can change (I see it every day in my practice). The key, though, is that they have to want to change (you wanting them to change will not be sufficient). Let go of that expectation and simply accept them where they are. Just like being upset at the weather doesn't change the weather, taking away the resentment you experience for your family member being the way they are will help reduce your stress.
  2. Let it go:
    As Queen Elsa in Frozen shouts out, it is time for you to let it go. Yes, by this I mean "forgive." Forgiveness does NOT mean you condone what occurred, agree with what others have done or allow something to happen again. It does mean that you release the anger you have about what happened in the past and choose to focus on the present and future. You cannot change what they did. You can change how much pain you now experience because of it. My recommendation? Choose wisely.
  3. Find a carrot:
    Plan something rewarding for yourself when the holidays are over. It could be lunch with a fun friend, getting a massage or even just a few quiet hours to yourself. When you have a carrot dangling out in front of you, it make whatever is happening now easier to handle.
  4. Stop personalizing:
    Most people's comments and statements are simply a barometer for what is going on inside of them. You are merely the canvas where their own internal turmoil is displayed. Simply put, people who judge others are judging themselves even more. So when comments are made, see them for what they are, the other person's discontent with themselves.
  5. Ask for help: Stop getting upset that no one offers to help. Let go of the passive aggressive "Oh-it-must-be-nice-to-have-me-wait-on-you-hand-and-foot" mentality and be assertive. Want people to help out? Sure, it would be nice if they proactively offered, but they don't (review number 1). Assign specific tasks: Aunt Martha, you are in charge of dessert set up and Charlie, you are responsible for rallying the other kids to get the table set. People actually enjoy owning a part of the process.

What works best for you over the holidays when it comes to dealing with kooky family? Share it with us below.

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