Your Holiday Survival Guide, Part 4: Family and the Secret of Holiday Cheer

family_header Read Part 1: Food!

Read Part 2: Drinks!

Read Part 3: Presence for Presents

This 5 part survival guide for the holidays would be incomplete without dedicating some time to dealing with our families.

Stress is the #1 complaint I get in my clinic at this time of year, and very little of it has to do with our jobs, or finances, or any of the normal stressors of day-to-day life. Unfortunately, things like shopping for gifts, schedules full of parties, and impending family visits are actually causing the majority of stress right now.

So what is it about our family, in particular, that stresses us out, and how do we manage that stress for a happier holiday?

The answer might surprise you.


Your family may be the key to your holiday cheer

Study after study has been conducted on human happiness, and they all come back to a single factor that makes the biggest difference: the strength of our personal relationships. People who have strong communities tend to live longer, be more productive, and generally report more life satisfaction in the long run.

So while you may be dreading having your in-laws stay in your home for 10 days over the holidays, their presence may actually be the healthiest thing for you this December.


Not all families & friends are created equal

It goes without saying that not all families or even friends are conducive to the kinds of strong personal relationships that are going to boost our overall health and happiness. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to let go of relationships that no longer serve you.

That being said, sometimes a little tolerance goes a long way. Does your dad turn you into the 13-year-old, attitude-laden, snarky youth you once were? Your grandma talk ceaselessly about her health afflictions? Your uncle drink a bit too much every Christmas Eve and tell embarrassing stories?

While potentially annoying, letting the little quirks about our families get to us might actually be doing damage to our health and well-being, and theirs. So what can you do to reap the benefits of family and leave the stress behind?


Surviving & thriving during family time

If you're not well practiced at smooth holiday visits, being intentional about your time may be useful.

1. Communicate, communicate, COMMUNICATE

Before things devolve into yelling or stoney silence, it might be worthwhile to set some ground rules for family visits. Maybe there are topics that need to be taken off the table, apologies that need to be made ahead of time, or rules that need to be made to ensure things go peaceably.

Whatever the sticking point is for you and your tribe, try talking about it BEFORE things get heated. You'll be amazed how much easier things are to discuss when tempers haven't flared.

2. Set a time limit

If the communication's happened and the gathering is still high-risk for negative interactions, set a time limit. You can always bump up the amount of time together next year, but in the meantime you'll be able to focus on a quality visit, rather than forcing a quantity of time that's not healthy for anyone.

3. Turn on the Frozen soundtrack, and let it go

Ultimately in any human relationship, a degree of forgiveness and general laid-back-ness is required. No one can be on their best behaviour 24/7, but the  benefits of letting go of anger and resentment will always outweigh the drawbacks.


Our relationships are our most valuable asset when it comes to good health and a happier holiday season. Cherish them, and you'll be rewarded!

BlogDoctor Marita