Anxious About the Holidays? Three Tips for Managing Your Stress and Anger Management This Holiday Season.
The holidays are just around the corner and we all know as wonderful as they are, they can also be a stressful time. In my work as a mental health clinician, I constantly see a pattern of heightened stress in families during the holiday season. Particularly when having to deal with family members that we just don’t get along with. Getting together with family that we hardly see or talk to for most of the year can cause great anxiety and tension. Many times this can lead to arguments, outbursts, and regrettable incidents. By preparing in advance and following a few anger management strategies, you might find yourself more at peace this holiday season.
Tip #1 – Give yourself permission to NOT be excited about the gatherings – Remember relatives are just that – people you are related to. You may love them, but it is okay to admit you don’t like them very much. Being realistic about this in advance can help you feel less guilty about your feelings. You’re not alone.
Tip # 2 – Set boundaries ahead of time – This goes along with giving yourself permission in some ways. The first step is to let those people know what you expect out of this holiday visit. For example, if your parents are the root of the problem, let them know in advance in a phone call that although you would really like to see them and spend this time with them, you would also like for them to refrain from discussing certain topics and making disrespectful remarks about your divorce or money problems. Be specific so they know what you mean. You also need to be able to understand what you can and cannot do. If you know you are not going to keep your cool around certain people, just say no. It is always best to politely decline an invitation beforehand instead of bailing last minute or, worse, creating a scene once you’re there. If it involves people you must see, such as parents or siblings, set aside a time limit for how long you will be there and stick to it before things get heated. Another tip might be to take a good friend along to serve as your anger thermometer and remind you of when it might be time to go.
Tip #3 – Prepare for the worst, hope for the best – If you know that Uncle Steve, “the belligerent drinker” will be there or you know your pops is bound to start the “what are you doing with your life” conversation, prepare for this. You don’t want to walk into these situations with a negative attitude and your guard up but it’s always a good idea to be prepared for what may come. Have a few ideas of what might come up and practice what you could say in order to avoid conflict. If hot-button issues usually surface, figure out a few ways that you might rein in your reaction ahead of time. In addition, have a couple of subject-changing questions or activities planned. Lastly, hope for the best and remember there is no better time to give thanks and forgiveness to those around us, including you.