It would be wonderful if the holidays were as perfect as they appear in every advertisement or hallmark movie, but for many of us, navigating this time of year brings a special brand of frustration. Stress comes at us from every angle. On top of working out schedules and travel plans, we’re under tremendous social and financial strain. By the time the holidays arrive, many of us feel like we’re about to explode–and family members have a unique way of pushing all the wrong buttons.

The holidays stir up all sorts of strange emotions–both good and bad. Dealing with aging parents, unruly children, and distant relatives who tease you for mistakes twenty years ago is never a picnic. In today’s article, we will explore five ways to stay calm when you feel your frustrations boiling over.

1. Temper Expectations

Often, frustration is tied to expectation. We’re hoping for an outcome, and when we don’t get it, that can be extraordinarily disappointing. It’s reasonable to feel frustrated when someone reacts to good news with criticism or a back-handed joke or when plans are derailed by a last-minute cancellation.

Take some time before the holidays begin to think about what expectations you’re bringing with you, and prepare yourself that things might not go according to plan. While it’s always tempting to make big announcements around the holidays, it’s best to be avoided if at all possible. Save your big news for a phone call, an email, or one-on-one time if you’re not sure how it will go and it’s making you feel anxious or stressed. 

2. Keep an Escape Plan Ready

Sometimes, you need to have a plan of action for removing yourself from conversations you don’t want to be a part of. Feel free to walk away When something gets too heated or annoying. You can politely say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to excuse me. I don’t want to talk about this subject anymore.” You have the right to not engage in something you aren’t comfortable with.

3. Mindfulness

A few quick tricks can help you keep your lid on when you feel like it’s about to pop–and mindfulness is among the best of them. Think of mindfulness as a way of grounding yourself by focusing on the present moment through your sensations. When your family members start pushing your buttons, change gears by distracting yourself with your five senses.

Some quick hacks for engaging your senses include:

  • Going for a quick walk–a change of temperature & scenery can snap you out of a funk.
  • Excusing yourself to the bathroom to take a few deep breaths and hit the reset button.
  • Focusing your attention elsewhere, like a song or television playing in the background.

4. Set Boundaries

Just like it’s important for us to temper our own expectations, it’s also important to set those expectations with others. Setting healthy boundaries around topics you don’t want to discuss can effectively defuse a situation before it escalates. Your family may not know how sensitive some topics are. If they touch on something raw, give them the benefit of the doubt while simultaneously letting them know it’s not something you want to dig into.

5. Self-Care

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the holidays, which makes self-care all the more important. This means knowing and respecting your own limits, and making good choices. It might be tempting to pour yourself another glass of wine or run to the fridge for another beer when your family starts pushing your buttons–but it’s best to save indulgences like those for situations where you feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed.

Getting Support

If you’re worried about how to navigate the holidays this year, reach out to learn more about anxiety therapy. Sometimes we need a sounding board to hear us out and help make a plan.

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