How to Manage Anxiety While Attending Family Functions Over the Holidays

Ways to Keep Tensions Low and Focus on the Fun

By Guest blogger Jennifer Scott

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    Photo Courtesy of  Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Everyone knows how stressful the holidays can be. Expectations, concerns, and anxiety are often felt this time of year as we gather around the Christmas tree, but managing these stressors is a whole other ballgame when you’re dealing with family. If you are facing the pressure of keeping up appearances and saving face this holiday season, try incorporating these tips to help protect you from anger and frustration and move on to a more joyful moment.

Have a Plan

According to the American Psychological Association, Americans are more likely to experience an increase in stress rather than a decrease during the holidays, due to all of the stipulations that go along with the celebrations. Anxiety can be an uncomfortable feeling to bear, but developing helpful coping mechanisms will help you to move through the holidays much more comfortably. As family gatherings approach, have a safety net in the form of a therapist, breathing exercises or a friend or trusted family member, whom you can talk to in times of need and will help put things into perspective.

Daily stressors can also have a significant impact on someone who experiences ongoing anxiety, especially for those in addiction recovery. If you have family members who are prone to causing stress each holiday season, incorporate some coping mechanisms, such as meditation, mantras, and prayer before attending the event. The most crucial thing to remember is that you are not alone, and there is always a way to appropriately deal with anxiety.

Set Boundaries

There are various forms of peer pressure, which can occur at any age, especially during the holidays. Peer pressure is known to cause stress due to the desire for someone to fit in or keep everyone happy. While getting along is great, your peace of mind is more important. In many cases, we tend to put up with family bullies because they’re family. However, by speaking up, you are more likely to gain respect, which will also help calm your anxiety because you aren’t worried about what someone will say anymore.

Keep tensions low by politely but sternly affirming your stance on a situation. Whether it’s a parent, an uncle or an unrelated guest, it’s OK to say, “You are a guest in this home. I will not tolerate your bullying.” You may even say, “No thanks. I am not drinking tonight,” if you are in addiction recovery. Setting boundaries will help cultivate a culture of respect, whether or not you are hosting this season. You can only take so many years of cooking the holiday turkey or being the family laughing stock. By standing up to familial bullies, you’ll lessen rumination and build your self-confidence.

Practice Self-Care

Along with implementing meditation, prayer or mantras, it’s crucial that you get the right amount of sleep, exercise and nutrition as a means to stave against unnecessary stress. According to, stress is the leading cause of 75-90% of health issues. A lack of balance can cause one to feel out of control, angry, out of whack and not themselves.

Exercise, on the other hand, along with a healthy diet and sleep schedule, is a key to staying away from harmful substances and creating healthier mood patterns. When you move often, endorphins (or feel-good hormones) are released, which will help you feel happier. As you reach better results in appearance, stamina and the way you feel, you’ll more likely stick to your program. Consume the right amount of protein, leafy greens and other types of superfoods to feed your brain and body what it needs. Healthy eating encourages decreased mood swings while lessening depression, and even helps you to develop better mental stamina.

Managing your emotions and looking within are keys to staying balanced this holiday season. As everyone else is frantically awaiting holiday visits, preparing meals and shopping, you’ll be able to nurture your soul and your body as you pivot your attention to what matters most — including your own well-being.

MindHanne Robinson