Aunt Pam is drunk off spiked cider, Mom is grilling you on your very unmarried love life, and Grandpa is going off on an “in my day” tangent. Our families are crazy, and that’s why we love them. After a few days spent at home for the holidays, however, their endearing idiosyncrasies can become anxiety-producing stressors. Don’t pull your hair out just yet. We’re arming you with ten ways to not let your family get to you.
Think of how you feel after a great yoga class; you’re relaxed, rejuvenated, and nothing can phase you. Now apply that to your family visit. A few days before your homeward bound journey, focus on eating healthy, sleeping well, and exercising, all in an effort to relieve stress prior to your visit. Stress has a tendency to build up; if you don’t shed one layer now before adding another, you’ll be easier to aggravate and upset.
Do not forget your cell phone, charger, a good book, magazines, your laptop, and maybe any “work you have to finish.” You’ll need these supplies later as means of escape, and contact with the outside world is necessary in maintaining sanity.
This one may seem odd, but exaggerate your packing for the weather you’ll be in. If it’s cold, pack a scarf, a jacket, a sweater, gloves, earmuffs, thermal underwear, and extra socks. If you’re going somewhere warm, bring sunscreen and a brimmed hat. What’s the deal with this packing advice in an article about family stress? It eliminates “fretting.” If Grandma and Mom feel they don’t have to worry about you getting hypothermia or sun poisoning, then you get…drum roll please…left alone.
See? This is exactly what you don’t want.
Indulge the Audience
Bring a handful of photographs to pass around the room, letting your family feel included in your life, and share a few stories about recent dates before they can begin to really grill you.
Find an ally–maybe you relate well with your cousin, or you enjoy cooking in the kitchen with Mom. It’s important to have one person in the house you can turn to when everyone else is driving you nuts.
Define Your Boundaries. Clearly.
If you have an uncle who loves to argue over politics or a dad who doesn’t agree with your life choices, make sure to let them know that you wont be discussing such items during the break. If they bring it up, smile and politely say, “Let’s talk about something else. How are you?” Direct a question at the griller and turn the focus on them. If Dad persists, pull him aside and remind him that this is your vacation. You will discuss any issues after the holidays. Let three words be your new best friend: keep the peace.
Families Who Play Together Stay Together
If the dinner table gets tense, suggest that your grandparents tell everyone about funny childhood stories. If your 8-year-old cousins get antsy, engage the whole room in a game like Pictionary or Scrabble. You’ll stop World War III from happening by distracting everyone with something fun, and provide much needed family bonding time. Careful, you may actually enjoy yourself.
Make yourself the designated errand runner, or set a coffee date with an old friend in the area. Give yourself some time to step away from the relatives. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, even if all you can get is a 15 minute break.
Embrace the Zone Out, Nod, and Smile
Your new brother-in-law is nice enough, but he is hands down the most boring person you have ever met. Like it or not, he’s family now too, so it’s important to be polite and attentive. Sort of. Getting stuck with “the talker” is inevitable, so perfect the Z.N.S. and you’ll be ready for battle.
Zone Out- Fix your eyes on their brows and then imagine something other than what they’re talking about. We recommend James Franco or Ed Westwick’s British accent.
Nod- Bob your head up and down intermittently throughout their one-sided conversation. You don’t want to actually look like you’re not paying attention.
Smile- Flash your pearly whites to show you’re enjoying what they’re saying, acknowledging the joke or just a really happy person.
Worse thing that happens? You appear spacey. Best thing that happens? You get to skip out on their endless overshares.
Remember Why You Went Home in the First Place
To see your family, of course! Enjoy your time with them, and embrace each cousin, aunt and grandparent for all of their weirdness. They mean well, they love you, and whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with them for life. When you’re all seated around the living room, eating apple pie and laughing wholeheartedly, take it in. Enjoy it, feel lucky. This is what the holidays are all about.