Relationship Dilemma Remedies

A Blog About Solving Common Relationship Dilemmas

Holiday Family Stress and Tension

Thanksgiving Turkey

It is far from the truth that families really like each other. Not all conversation and relationships are loving, easy and nurturing.

Family stress and differences affect celebrations and make holiday gatherings difficult in many families.  In-laws that you may not particularly care for, relatives that you do not see often or know well, and changes in families because of separation, divorce or new partners can lead to unease and difficult times.

Planning ahead can help.  “Forewarned is forearmed“, as the old saying goes.

Think ahead about the gatherings and imagine how they may go.  Visualize the “best case scenarios” and the “worse case scenarios”.   Set realistic expectations for them. Talk, plan and strategize with those you love most about how to help and support each other if things get difficult.

Here are a few other suggestions to consider as you plan for family holiday events.

 Are you the host or hostess?

If you are the one who is in charge, you can have some control over the situation.  Here are some ideas to make the experience the best that it can be.

1. Brush up on your own communication and conflict resolution skills. Find ways to keep your own cool.  Learn some words and phrases to use that might ease tension.  You will have to think of ones that fit your specific family situation and might include something like:

“We are all different in our ideas.  Let’s not try to convince each other to change his or her thinking on this special day.  We only see each other a few times a year.  Let’s create good memories and appreciate what we do have in common and like about each other.”  Then quickly offer a new idea for the conversation.

2. Take leadership before and during the event and set a positive tone.

3. Plan some kind of an activity or conversation starters.

  • Gather old family photos and get people to share stories. Keep the conversation light and find ways to reminisce about happy times.
  • Interview the oldest generation about their childhood memories.
  • Play a family trivia game.
  • Be creative as you think up ways to keep the conversation headed in a good direction.
  • We plan to turn our old videos to dvds for each family and watch a little old time television. We hope that all of the generations will get a smile from some of the clips of our childhood.

4. Enlist a few other trusted relatives as your aides to keep the conversation flowing in a good direction and deflect tension and stress.

5. Remember, when people talk about themselves, they generally feel appreciated and this might help them to be more positive with others. Spend time, or get one of your co-conspirators to spend time, with those relatives who might be more critical or difficult.  Help them to feel special by showing interest in what is going on with them and in their life.

Will you attend rather than host events?

  1. Find small messages to say to yourself to remember that you are okay and that winning an argument or “putting someone in their place” is not healthy for you in the long run.
  1. Take leadership in your actions and your responses. Promise yourself that you will not get into arguments or take negative responses personally.  (Is it more important to have family harmony or to win an argument?)
  1. If there are relatives that bother or irritate you, find ways to politely avoid them. You don’t have to hang out with people that you do not like and with whom you do not get along.
  1. Avoid divisive subjects. Find ways to change the discussion or even leave the room.  This is not a time to solve the world problems or dissect the latest election.
  1. Be positive and complimentary whenever you can. Don’t make things up, be realistic; however, remember that positivity breeds positivity and it may lead to a friendlier atmosphere for the family.
  1. Stand up for your spouse or children with your own family. If another family member makes a disparaging remark, calmly but directly, let them know that it is not okay with you to talk or treat your family in that way.  If at all possible, try not to get into a prolonged confrontation where apologies are demanded, often that leads to more conflict.  If you need to, find a way to leave the gathering early.
  1. Limit alcohol … or just don’t drink at all. You want to be able to leave the party with dignity and remember the positive ways that you handled yourself.

Remember, this is only for a short period of time.  You do not have to remain forever.  It will be over and you can go back to your safe, comfortable surroundings with those who love and respect you and share your ideas and values.

You can create a positive or an acceptable time for yourself.  You don’t have to let negativity and family tension overwhelm you.  Stay in charge of your thoughts and your “buttons”.  You cannot control what others say or do, you can be in charge of how you see, react or respond.














November 9, 2016 Posted by | difficult in-laws, family holidays, Holiday blues, holidays, in-laws, Relationship Dilemmas, rituals | Leave a comment

Test: Are You a Candidate for Holiday Stress?


Test: Are You a Candidate for Holiday Stress?

Take this quiz to find out if you are a candidate for experiencing holiday stress.

The holidays are upon us.  For some, this is an exciting and wonderful time.  For others it is dreaded and avoided where ever possible.   For everyone, it can be a time of poor habits and self-care which quickly lead to holiday stress.

Too much to do and too many people to care for; or too little to do and too few people in your life can both add up to holiday stress and lead to physical, emotional or mental health problems.

Instructions for the holiday stress test:
To determine your score and see if you are a candidate for stress this holiday season, answer Yes or No to each of these questions.

Give yourself 5 points for each No statement on the holiday stress test.

  • I am able to be very realistic about what to expect from myself over the holidays.
  • I anticipate the holidays with genuine pleasure most of the time.
  • I know how to set a budget for holiday gifts and stick with it.
  • Christmas shopping and spending a lot of money on gifts are not the most important part of this season.

Click here to take the rest of the Holiday Stress Test.

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December 4, 2012 Posted by | family holidays, Holiday blues, holidays | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 6: Beat the Holiday Blues by Honoring Rituals

Honor important old rituals and develop new ones. Rituals help promote a sense of well-being.  Old ones can provide a sense of continuity through times of transition while developing new ones aids in accommodating to new situations.

Evaluate which rituals you want to keep and consider developing any new ones that might mark the positive things about you or your life right now.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | family holidays, Holiday blues, loneliness, rituals | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 5: Beat the Holiday Blues with a Gratitude Journal

Begin a holiday gratitude journal.  Every night record just 3 things that have happened that day or in your life in general that you are grateful for and really appreciate.

Focus on what is good in your life right now rather than what is missing.

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December 20, 2010 Posted by | Holiday blues | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 4: Beat the Holiday Blues by Joining Others

Find a way to be around other people.  Look for groups through your community, neighborhood, church, synagogue or volunteer organization.

You don’t have to be with crowds and, unless you have family, probably not around others with family.

Look for opportunities to connect with others who might be in a situation similar to your own rather than with people who are bonded with others.

Look for others who emphasize the goodness about you rather than what is missing.

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December 16, 2010 Posted by | Holiday blues, holidays, loneliness | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 3: Beat the Holiday Blues by Doing for Others

Do something for others.  Putting your life’s situation in perspective can be helped by recognizing what others are experiencing.  While their situation may not even be as difficult as your own, focusing on someone else and taking the focus off of yourself can be an important mental health antidote for the holiday blues.  Besides, it feels good to help someone else and lift their own burden.

Bake cookies for neighbors.    Adopt a family from an angel tree.  Make some crafts and visit a nursing home.  Invite a niece or nephew to a holiday program.  Consider inviting those without family connections to your home for a holiday meal.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | depression, Holiday blues, holidays, loneliness, lonely | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 2: Beat the Holiday Blues by Setting Realistic Expectations

Have realistic expectations for yourself and your family.

Remember holidays of the past and do not expect this year to be much different.

Remember, you can work yourself into a pretzel trying to make them special, but you have no control over others in your family and they may never appreciate what you do for them.

You may fantasize about your hopes and dreams for the holidays, however, it may only BE hopes and dreams.

Be realistic about yourself and your family as you move into the holidays.  Look for small positive things and focus on them rather than what is missing.

Find ways to create meaning in these holidays for yourself but know that it may not mean the same for others.

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December 7, 2010 Posted by | family holidays, Holiday blues, loneliness, lonely | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 1: Beat the Holiday Blues by Shaking Hands with Them

Shake hands with your loneliness or sadness. Recognize that this is just something that affects you.  It is NOT you; however, just something that you are experiencing and may have experienced before.

This may be a familiar feeling or may be new due to a change in your life or circumstances.  Acknowledge its presence.  Take some time to think about it and then look for ways to focus on other things.

Talk out loud about it.  Write about it.  Cry about it, if that helps.  Do a little work to understand the meaning of it in your life and then find ways to let it go, at least for awhile.

You may need to allow yourself time to think or grieve throughout the holidays but look for ways to let it go the rest of the time.

Counseling Relationships Online

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December 2, 2010 Posted by | family holidays, Holiday blues, lonely, Relationship Dilemmas | Leave a comment

6 Strategies for Easing the Holiday Blues

Are you alone and lonely over the Christmas Holidays?
Do you look with sadness on those who seem to be happy with their lives and feel that yours is empty?
Do you dread the looming, empty New Years Eve?
Do the holiday blues seem stronger than ever before?

Holidays can produce a time of loneliness and sadness for many people who regularly experience the holiday blues.

What causes the holiday blues?

The causes of holiday blues are varied.  Sometimes they are caused by childhood experiences which seem to always bring a pall of sadness over the season.  No matter how you try to shake it, memories, smells, sights and sounds seem to bring on sadness.

Jean could not understand why, but every time she smelt a cinnamon candle, she found herself feeling sad.  She remembered that her mother always burned a candle over the holidays and they were not happy times for her.

Tom hated Christmas Eve.  His father would always begin his celebration by drinking heavily and the family pretty much expected him to become abusive and angry for the rest of the holiday.

At other times, holiday blues are brought on by a change in life.  Divorce or death of a spouse impacts in so many ways.  Death of a parent or close friend can also be hard to handle at any time but especially over the holidays.

Moves from home, living alone, a change in health or friendships can also impact happiness and bring on the holiday blues.

Is the best strategy to beat the holiday blues to just keep your head down and plunge through?

Usually, that is not the best approach.  There is no one right answer for how to handle the holiday blues but there are some strategies that can have an impact.  We will be sharing them over the next few days.  We would also be interested in your experiences so please share them here with all of us.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Holiday blues | | Leave a comment