• Jessica Hernandez

Handling the Stress of Holiday Gatherings

Updated: Dec 11, 2019


Let's face it- everyone has family members that stress them out, and many people cringe at the idea of having to celebrate holidays with said family members.

So how do you manage it?

Whether you're a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), Empath, Introvert, or none of the above, here's some ideas for maintaining your inner peace in the midst of family holiday chaos.

Don’t take it personal:

Some people enjoy debates. Some people can’t fathom how or why others would think or choose differently than they do, so they will get stuck on it and need to process out loud-at your expense. Some people are so insecure that they have to attack others (hopefully only verbally!) so that they can either feel “empowered” or take the imagined spotlight off of themselves and avoid having their shortcomings observed by all.

What I’m trying to say is: even though people may be verbally attacking you, it doesn’t mean that underneath the backhanded “compliments” and snarky comments it’s actually about you. Nope. It’s about them. Go figure.

If you can remember that, then you can avoid getting sucked into the arguments and find an easy way to remove yourself from the conversation: “oh, gotta pee now!” or “I’m thirsty, be right back.” (don’t go back though!), or, for the bold ones, “wow, you like to argue and I’m here to celebrate ___ holiday. I’m headed for the kid’s table-they know how to celebrate!”, or simply, “I need some fresh air!”

Honor your needs with strong boundaries:

If you know you can only handle 2 hours of family gatherings, then set a timer and allow yourself to actually leave when you need to. No guilt, no made-up excuses. Just. Honor. Your. Needs. Do not abandon yourself for the sake of "saving face."

Other people may be surprised or upset, and beg you to stay, but simply state, “I know you want me to stay, and that warms my heart, but it doesn’t work for me. Love ya, bye!”

If you need to be more specific, then try this: “I only have so many units of people-ing available to me before I crash and burn. I’m running out so I have to go home now to recharge!”

Take nature breaks often:

Yes, I know, it’s cold outside. But some fresh air can be reviving if you’re struggling with contentious people indoors. Even giving yourself a bathroom break to go pamper yourself with deep breaths, a splash of water on your face, or a short nap (haha) can make a huge difference in your ability to be present with the people around you. I'd even recommend doing a short EFT tap on your stress if you can. There's even an app for it now!

Speak to what you observe:

If that annoying person won’t stop attacking your views or sharing theirs, simply stating the obvious can be a great way to interrupt the pattern so that the conversation can shift, or so you can leave the room. Try this: “Wow, you’re really angry about this!” or “Wow, you’re really passionate about this!” or “Wow, we really think completely different about this! How fascinating! Let’s agree to disagree.”

People stuck in their own thoughts and patterns are like a sinking ship. If you get defensive and join them in the arguing, then you’re going down with the ship. But shifting to the observer perspective and then naming it can be the lifesaver to get you both out of the water!

This can also include setting boundaries: “You’re saying cruel things to me right now. Is that really your intention? Is that really why we’re here today? Please stop. I don’t appreciate it! I didn’t come here to be ridiculed/verbally attacked/belittled, etc.”

Perhaps the examples I’ve used are extremes for some of you, and mild for others. Hopefully you can see how these ideas can be useful for you to have in your “people-ing” toolkit, just in case you need it!

Wishing you a pleasant, heart-warming holiday season!

#holidays #stressrelief #personalboundaries #familygatherings #verbalattack #HSP #Emath #Introvert #toolkit #observerself

© 2019 Jessica Hernandez, MA, LMFT  #87376   

*The recommendations on this website do not constitute professional advice, substitute for professional treatment, or establish a therapeutic relationship.

As a Psychotherapist (Marriage & Family Therapist), Jessica provides Silicon Valley, CA residents, including Palo Alto, Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Mountain View, Stanford, San Jose, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Campbell, Almaden, South San Jose, Morgan Hill, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz with Individual Psychotherapy, Therapy, Ecotherapy, EFT, Online Therapy, and Counseling for: anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, introverts, divorce/relationship issues, self-esteem, co-dependency, stress management, mindfulness, spiritual exploration, abuse survivors, HSP's, Empaths, work/life balance, trauma, and more.