how to survive: going home for the holidays

It’s to be expected, really – reuniting for a week or two after months of time apart with people who you know will always love you during an extremely stressful and busy holiday…pretty much a recipe for disaster. My family is spread out all over the world (this year we finally we had three of us on the same continent –  a rarity!). Thus, when we do come together, there is a LOT to catch up on. Business stuff, like taxes and college bills and financial aid; personal stuff, like how we are doing and are we eating well/seeing anybody/managing school/etc.; and family stuff, like planning the next holiday, discussing changes, and calling grandparents – it all adds up! Not only that, but we usually only get to see each other for a short time, so all of these issues need to be squeezed in along with getting ready for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, seeing old friends, cooking, cleaning, and remembering to walk the dog at least once a day. More than once, this intense pressure and business has led to one (or all) of us cracking. Of course, we love each other and we all want to get along, but it’s hard when we’re sharing rooms, the bathroom, and the remote (!). I (sadly) remember a few Christmases when I found myself dreading going home simply because it can be really overwhelming. Over the last few years, however, I’ve nailed down a few go-to strategies for handling the bustle of holidays at home, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of them with you guys.
Before the holiday:

Identify an Attainable Goal (or goals) 
The first thing I do when I know I’m going to be in a situation where tensions will be high and reservations low is to outline a goal for how I want to feel when I leave. Do I want to feel ragged, tired, and drained? No. Instead, I want to leave refreshed and full of love and appreciation for my family, whom I admire so much. Plan the steps needed to leave feeling this way, and, if you want, share your goal with your family so everyone has this in mind. Identifying your end-goal can help so much in preparing your attitude, and remembering your goal can be a huge help in putting a stop to a fight or argument.

Change your perspective
Dreading time at home can ultimately shape a lot of how things will go once you get there. Instead of seeing the holiday as something you’re forced to do, see it as an opportunity to do something tangible – a chance to start a new book series, to explore your hometown, to perfect a recipe, or even to get to know your dad a little better –  it’s up to you! Shifting perspective can make a world of difference in how you react to any issues that come up. For example, when you begin something with a bad attitude, any bump in the road (and there will be some. This is life we are talking about, after all) will only add to your frustration and will be used to further prove your inner hypothesis that things really do ‘suck’. On the other hand, if you approach something with an open heart and mind, bumps in the road will simply be challenges to take on, and may even lead you to something better than you imagined. It sounds cliche, but attitude really is everything.


Check In
Check in with your goals regularly. Whether you check in every night before bed or during your morning shower, evaluate how you’re doing with your goals and where there is room for improvement. This takes the responsibility off others and on to you –  after all, only YOU are responsible for your happiness, no one else. Keeping your goal in mind will ensure that you don’t ‘forget’ and go off on someone during a weak moment. If you’re not doing so well, change your behavior now, not later. Being kind and understanding really is so much easier than being mad or resentful, but making that change is hard, so start small, like offering to help clean up after dinner, and go from there.

Take Care
Make sure to take care of yourself. This is a holiday, after all! Schedule some time to do what you like, whether it is going shopping with your friends, binge-watching all the Harry Potter movies (hello), or having a pamper/spa day. Inform your family of what you’ll be doing, but don’t let anyone make you feel bad for taking time for yourself – it’s called self-care and it is vital to your well-being and over happiness. If you want, you can include one of your family members in your self-care day – as long as you leave feeling refreshed and revitalized, it doesn’t need to only be about you. I love to take walks through the snow at our cottage, either with our dog, my siblings, or alone. If I feel myself getting in a bad mood, I throw on my boots and coat and ten minutes later, I feel so much better. It’s ‘me-time’ that benefits everyone!


Say Thank You
Make sure to thank your family for hosting you. Not only is it polite, it will also make you remember how lucky you are to have a home to go back to, and people who love you in it. Focusing on the good parts of a holiday will leave you feeling a lot happier than focusing on everything that went wrong. One Christmas, we had old family friends over for Christmas and, for the first time ever, the fondue we had prepared for dinner didn’t turn out well. It wasn’t the best dinner ever, but the most vivid memory I have of that Christmas is laughing with our friends about the flop and eating it anyway (it is just cheese, after all).

Plan for next time
Keeping in line with identifying a goal and checking in, make a list of what coping strategies worked for you and what didn’t. You can do this as a family, or by yourself. Knowing what works for you is so essential in stopping yourself before it is too late, and having a list of go-to tactics make this even easier. If some of your plans didn’t work out as you had hoped, write down why and what could have worked better. If your family’s current traditions leave everyone depressed and/or exhausted, make new ones! Reflection is a great way to avoid a bad situation year after year.

{all images via pinterest}

Those are my tips! Do you have any to add? Let me know how you cope with family-centered holidays and how you keep sane – I’m still working on it!


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