Coping with Family Stress During the Holidays


The holidays can be tough right? No family is perfect and when we meet with family, past hurts and intense feelings may arise. Politics, disappointment, and relational wounds may all be on the menu this year. In light of this, I want to offer some tips and advice regarding how to heal and mend these wounds.

First of all, let’s note that we have no control over who are our families, what they believe and how they behave. However, we do have control over how we respond. It’s important to understand that what is going with our emotions and hurts are not just in the present, they are also wounds from our past that reopen. In understanding this, it becomes clear that healing can only begin from within.

Tip number one: self care

•   be patient and forgiving with yourself and see if you can extend that some to family members

•   give yourself the time and space to process your emotions, rather than avoiding them, move toward them and acknowledge them.

•   do whatever you need to manage your emotions, this looks differently for everyone. Take a deep breath, pause, remove yourself and stomp your feet outside.

Take the time to forgive your past and present self, you wouldn’t be who you are today without each and every experience you’ve had. As you practice self-love, be intentional about making time in your day to do at least one thing that feeds your mind, body, and soul. This is imperative to the healing process.

Tip number two: boundaries and taking space

•   if you need some time to decompress, regroup and be with your feelings, take the time by going on a walk, stepping away in emotionally challenging moments, go run an errand alone or with someone who feels safe

•   give yourself permission to take time and space between the next contact

•   These interactions only have as much power as we allow. Mentally set a limit to how much energy you are willing to give this person during a challenging interaction, and give yourself permission to disengage in conversations when you feel unsafe.

Tip number three: Understand this takes time and it is a journey

Working through relationships and your own conflicting feelings takes time and patience and is a valuable tool you will use for life. Working through your own feelings and past hurts with a therapist can provide a safe space for you to heal and continue to find the areas you can connect to your family.

-Katherine Ross AMFT