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Family parties should be a happy time around the holidays, but for some, these get togethers can bring on stress and anxiety. For tips on how to stay happy during the holidays while dealing with difficult family members, happiness researcher Gillian Mandich shares her tips.

Charge your batteries

If you find family members draining, try your best to charge your batteries before you go so that you have the most energy you can. Talk to a friend or family member who inspires or energizes you, or do something you love so your batteries are as full as possible before you go to a holiday event.

Vent in safe space

Sometimes people can really get on your nerves and it can be very healthy to talk about i—you just need to be sure it’s in a safe space. Family events—especially if there is alcohol involved—are not a safe space to share everything that’s on your mind. Remember, you can’t take back words once they are said aloud, so if you feel like you are going to have verbal vomit, be biting hard on your tongue, or really bottling up your feelings at an event, find a trusted, non-judgmental friend and let them hear it all before you go.

Do something that switches your mood

Sometimes the thought or idea of seeing challenging family/in-laws can make you feel physically bad so it’s important that you shift things because going into a family event feeling that way will likely make you feel even worse. Try moving your body—go for a walk, have a dance party, or go for a drive and sing your favourite song out loud.

Set a time limit

Before going to a holiday event decide on your arrival and departure time. With the end in sight, it could help make time there easier.Let the host know when you arrive that you’ll have to leave at a certain time.

Manage your expectations

Don’t expect praise, warmth, and approval from your, or your partner’s family. If you mentally set your bar low, you can avoid setting yourself up for disappointment.

Get out of judgment

Not making any judgments at all is pretty much impossible, but there comes a point where making judgments becomes being judgmental, and that is destructive for mental health and self-esteem.

Focus on the positive

You have to make a dedicated effort to not allow any negative thoughts or judgements into your mind. If/when they arise (and they will), immediately force yourself to think about something else. Look around for something to appreciate, think of a good thing that happened to you today, or remember a good memory.

Put thing into perspective

It’s helpful to remember that your family probably had a big impact on the person you are today, and even if your in-laws are challenging, remember that there is likely a strong history and connection between your partner and his family.

Get curious

Take the focus off you and be genuinely curious about other people. Ask questions, listen to answers, and then ask more questions. One of the best ways to keep conversations light is to get your in-laws talking about themselves – about their work, childhood, hobbies, etc…

How you can experience the joy of missing out