The holidays are a time of year that can be simultaneously wonderful and terrifying, depending on your family situation. On one hand, the time off gives you the gift of togetherness with relatives that you likely haven’t seen in a while, but on the other hand, all that togetherness can be… a lot to handle. If you’re someone who only makes an annual pilgrimage to see your relatives during the holidays, or just haven’t hung out with a large group of people in a confined space in a while, the thought of all that family face time may be a little overwhelming at first. But it doesn’t have to be! There are plenty of ways to help destress over the holidays when you’re surrounded by family all of a sudden.
“For some people, dealing with family is simply a matter of being assertive” — setting boundaries — “and planning for good self-care,” Dr. Jacob Goldsmith, alicensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, tells Bustle. “Other folks need to strategize more carefully, as assertiveness can backfire in toxic situations.”
With a little preparation and the right mindset, there are myriad ways to make the extra socialization a little more bearable for yourself and the people around you by coming in with a game plan. And, let’s face it, if you have pushy relatives, learning tools to help decompress when you’re surrounded by family for extended periods of time will always come in handy. Whether your family reunions are joyful, awkward, or somewhere in between, here are five ways to help you find some peace when you’re surrounded by family all day and aren’t used to it.
1 Make Time for Yourself
It may seem obvious, but setting aside some alone time is a major key to dealing with extended periods of family time. “Make sure you schedule breathing time for yourself,” Dr. Chloe Carmichael, a New York-based licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. “Even if you’re not a member of the gym nearby, get a day pass or something, try a new yoga studio or a massage, but schedule some kind of solo time for yourself to decompress a little bit.”
2 Schedule a Check-in Call With A Friend
Whether it’s with a trusted friend or a therapist, Dr. Carmichael recommends telling a confidant in advance that you may reach out to them during your stay with the fam. Knowing you have that call available could help you feel less overwhelmed in the situation.
3 Set Boundaries for Yourself and Family
Another route is to be transparent with your relatives about how you’re feeling and seek their support. “I suggest that clients actively talk to family members about their needs for the holiday,” Dr. Goldsmith tells Bustle. He lists examples like explaining the need for alone-time or one-on-one time with certain people and family members.
By now, you’re probably familiar with the wonders meditation can do for your mind and body. But it’s worth repeating — the practice can help you clear your mind and find a moment of relaxation in an otherwise demanding social situation. If you’re new to the practice, you can try out a short guided mediation via an app, or attempt your own beginner-level meditation in your room.
5 Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to
Though everyone likes to de-stress in different ways, planning something for yourself for when you get back from your trip gives you something to look forward to at the finish line. Ask yourself if it’d be helpful to have dinner plans with friends the night you return, for example, to help you get back to your routine, or visit your favorite cozy book store or movie theatre solo to help decompress.
“Some people find coming home from a family trip to be a depleting experience, so sometimes knowing that in advance you’ve planned out something fun for yourself with your friends or more natural communities can help you recenter yourself,” Dr. Carmichael says.
Ultimately, being open with family about your feelings or concerns is the ideal course of action in situations where you may feel overwhelmed. But alongside that, these tips can help make what feels like the busiest time of year a more enjoyable experience for you and everyone around you.
—Sanam Yar at Bustle.com