4 Ways to Navigate Holiday Tension


A common focus in my sessions as of late has been about the anxiety felt due to numerous holiday obligations and family gatherings. During this season, the demands on your time alone may feel overwhelming. Couple that with tense relationship dynamics and the holiday season can feel down right unmanageable. While for some the holiday season is a joyful time filled with tradition, you’re certainly not alone if the season brings upon feelings of anxiety and dread. Below are a few ideas on how to take care of yourself while navigating tension and obligation during the holidays:

  1. Schedule Self-Care: Try being very intentional with scheduling time for yourself before and after holiday gatherings. Prioritize getting good sleep in the days leading up to the party, as sleep can significantly impact your mood and stress tolerance. For my fellow introverts, make sure to schedule alone time after a party to debrief and rejuvenate. It could also be helpful after a challenging get-together to schedule quality time with someone who feels safe and supportive. The holidays are full of obligations for your time, so self-care could also be scheduling a day to do absolutely nothing. Veg out with your favorite movie, snuggle your pet, wear pajamas all. day. long. That’s what a self-care day looks like to me, tailor yours to reflect what feels most rejuvenating to you!

  2. Set boundaries with yourself: Raise your hand if you, like me, have really high expectations for yourself. Now’s the moment you give yourself a little hug and remind yourself that you can lower those standards and you are still deserving of love. You are only one person and you cannot be everything to everyone or do everything with everyone. Take inventory of all the annual obligations/traditions you normally partake in and assess which ones you want/need to say “no” to this year. Feeling discomfort when saying “no” to loved ones is common but doesn’t automatically mean your boundary is wrong. The discomfort may ease with time and practice. Seeking the support of a therapist can also be helpful to process and better understand your feelings.

  3. Set boundaries with others: Give yourself a time limit for gatherings where attendance includes those with whom you have a tense relationship. Even further, communicate your planned departure time ahead of time so that you aren’t concerned with surprising the host. When topics arise that threaten your emotional well-being, vocalize your desire for a new conversation topic. You can acknowledge their right to an opinion while still requesting they respect your feelings. If they choose not to respect your feelings, consider the next suggestion…

  4. Leave: Give yourself permission to leave a party if the space becomes unsafe or unhealthy for your emotional well-being. This tip might sound simple but can feel really really hard. Prioritizing your own feelings over others’ is hard but IS NOT selfish. In this instance, your intention for leaving early is not to be hurtful to others but rather to protect yourself. You deserve that.

If you take away one thing from this discussion, my hope is that you are considering giving yourself permission this holiday season to prioritize your needs and emotional well-being. Remember, it is not selfish to take care of yourself. If this post resonates with you, we would be honored to walk alongside you as you delve deeper into understanding and navigating tension in your relationships. Email or call, we’re here.