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navigating holiday stress

For many, the end of the year means social and family gatherings, often involving lots of food and drink. Sometimes, reunions happen, and traditions are practiced. However, there’s also the less pleasant side – those awkward questions or topics brought up by family members, friends, or others present who lack the finesse to avoid discomfort.

To avoid these questions, skipping the celebration is an option. Yet, this can lead to more problems. The straightforward approach is for each person to assertively express discomfort about certain topics. It’s easier said than done, though. Most just get tense when family brings up inappropriate subjects, making us feel exposed and questioning ourselves.

While being on high alert all the time is exhausting, to deal with situations like this, it’s best to straightforwardly say that questions about work, appearance, or personal life should be avoided at events like celebrations. Just steer the conversation in a different direction.

In our society, people often ask about work, body, or love life because certain ideals like career success, physical attractiveness, or having a partner are highly valued. The problem is, that these expectations can make us feel depressed, overwhelmed, or simply disagree. When faced with an uncomfortable question, it’s better to change the subject, take a break, and discuss the issue as a family at a later time.

Effective Strategies to Deal with Holiday Stress

  • Set Realistic Expectations: One of the key factors contributing to holiday tension is often unrealistic expectations. Recognize that no family is perfect, and gatherings may not always go as planned. Setting realistic expectations can help you approach the holidays with a more open mind, reducing the potential for disappointment or frustration.
  • Choose the Right Time and Place: Timing is crucial when addressing sensitive topics. Choose an appropriate time and setting for important conversations. Avoid bringing up contentious issues during a crowded family dinner; instead, opt for a quiet moment when everyone can focus on the discussion without distractions.
  • Practice Active Listening: Effective communication involves not just speaking but also actively listening. When tensions arise, make an effort to listen to others’ perspectives without immediately formulating a response. Validate their feelings, and demonstrate empathy to create an atmosphere of understanding.
  • Use “I” Statements: Communicate your thoughts and feelings using “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory. For example, say “I feel upset when…” rather than “You always make me feel…” This approach encourages open dialogue and reduces the likelihood of defensive reactions.
  • Find Common Ground: Look for common interests or shared experiences that can serve as a foundation for positive conversations. Focusing on similarities rather than differences can help diffuse tension and create a more harmonious atmosphere during family gatherings.
  • Establish Boundaries: It’s essential to set and respect personal boundaries. If a conversation becomes too heated or uncomfortable, it’s okay to take a break or change the subject. Prioritize your emotional well-being and know when to step away from a potentially volatile situation.
  • Seek Mediation if Necessary: In some cases, tensions may be deep-rooted and difficult to resolve without assistance. Consider seeking the help of a neutral third party, such as a family therapist or mediator, to facilitate communication and provide guidance in resolving conflicts.
  • Practice Gratitude: Amidst the challenges, take time to reflect on the positive aspects of your family relationships. Expressing gratitude for the good moments and qualities of your loved ones can create a more positive atmosphere and foster a sense of connection.


Handling family tensions during the holidays involves patience, empathy, and good communication. Set realistic expectations, pick the right time, listen actively, use “I” statements, find common ground, set boundaries, consider mediation if needed, and express gratitude. Strengthening relationships requires effort, and the holidays offer a chance to build stronger bonds with your loved ones.


  • The American Psychological Association (APA) provides its website visitors with a wide range of information and resources related to psychology, including research, publications, educational materials, and information about the organization itself.
  • Child Mind Institute: Child Mind Institute’s website, provides information about their healthcare services, facilities, medical professionals, patient resources, and more.
  • NIMH: On the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website, you can find a wealth of information related to mental health, research findings, treatment options, and resources for individuals, families, and healthcare professionals.

Helpful Links

If you or someone you know needs to talk to a professional, contact us now to schedule your initial virtual session. You can call us at 888-409-8976 or click HERE to schedule it online.

Take care and be open to the possibility of a brighter, more grateful tomorrow.


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