Coping With Family Visits During The Holidays: Tips For Managing Stressful Moments

The holidays are wonderful – celebratory, lively and lots of fun.  Family and friends gather to share food, open presents and laugh together. This year is particularly meaningful because last year the pandemic prevented many people from seeing each other. Some people were completely alone during what is usually a very social and busy season.

Consequently, you may have booked lots of visits this year, and invited family from far away to come to spend a few days under your roof.

Making up for last year’s lost time is a generous gesture, because extended family members are no doubt anxious to get together to catch up. However, that means that you, as the host, will have a very busy schedule during the holidays, and that can mean a whole lot of stress. Whereas there may usually be three people up and milling around at breakfast, suddenly there are nine, none of whom know how to operate the coffee maker! Does that sound familiar?

Having family come to visit makes the holidays memorable and enjoyable, but dealing with your high stress level is important so you don’t wind up cranky or arguing with someone over nothing. In this post, we offer some suggestions for coping with the stress that comes with dealing with a crowded house and overactive schedule.  Try one, two or all of these tips and we promise the holidays will pass with you feeling a whole lot more relaxed and cheerful.

1. Recognize your limits.

If you insist on handling everything yourself, from trimming the tree to cooking every part of the holiday meal to shopping for all the gifts, you’re setting yourself for a major meltdown. Let others help you prepare for the family’s arrival, whether that’s your child, your partner or even your assistant at the office. People are usually anxious to contribute, perhaps by peeling potatoes or organizing who gets gifts for the office staff. Tasks like those are easily delegated, and learning to let go of them helps free up time for more important things.

2. Remind yourself to say no occasionally.

This is tied into our first tip: sometimes, you’ve simply got to turn down requests from others when you’re busy. For example, if you have siblings flying in the same night of the office Christmas party, don’t say you’ll be there to pick them up. Hire a car service, or ask another family member to handle it, so you can make an appearance at the office party but get home with energy left to engage with your visitors.

3. Remind yourself that it’s all temporary.

If you’re feeling stressed because your child is eating too many sweets, your mom is correcting your recipe as you cook and another family member is taking all the eggnog, repeat this mantra: “This too shall pass!” No matter how crazy things get with everyone under your roof, it’s not going to last. Opt to do nothing for a few hours, other than choose a holiday themed movie to watch while relaxing with everyone. You can’t control every detail of these visits, so don’t even try. Go with the flow, recognize that these people are very dear to you no matter what their foibles may be, and enjoy them while you can.

4. Take breaks to be alone.

Ever notice how a brisk walk around the block clears out your head and improves your mood? There are plenty of good reasons for getting lots of exercise during the holidays, and taking a break to be on your own, to breathe deeply and enjoy the peace and quiet, is one of the best.

5. Get lots of rest.

A good night’s sleep is one of nature’s best remedies for stress. Excuse yourself from the activities going on in the living room and go take a hot bath and get to bed early — it’s worth it. You’ll awake refreshed and reinvigorated, ready to tackle the crowd of family members looking at you with expectant smiles, wondering what the day’s agenda holds.

6. Control how much holiday cheer you consume. 

Overindulging in wine, beer or spirits is sure to leave you feeling stressed out and maybe nursing a headache the following morning. Resolve to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum, at least while you’re hosting duties are still in high gear. If you have a second glass of wine the final night of the relatives’ visit, you’ll at least have an empty house the next day in which you can relax and recover.

7. Get your immediate family fully on board.

If the cousins are bunking down in your child’s bedroom for a few nights, it’s important that they all respect one another’s space and privacy as much as possible. Explain to your child that the arrangement is temporary, and ask them to be polite, courteous and helpful while visitors are sharing their quarters.

Having family come to visit during the holiday season is really what the holidays are all about. And this year those visits will be particularly poignant because last year, too many people were unable to meet and share good times and family traditions. However, hosting guests in your home and being responsible for keeping them fed and happy can come at a price. Remember to take a little time for yourself here and there, ask others to pitch in and help wherever possible, and above all – hold on to your sense of humor! Realizing that festive gatherings only happen once or twice a year is the key to getting through the holiday season with grace and genuine joy.