The only people who say they like their families are liars. But during the holidays, those liars excel at denying how stressful it is to spend days with family members whom you'd rather scream at than smile. But if you're not a (good) liar, then it's a constant struggle to cope with the stress from aligning schedules, having tense small talk, and tolerating drunken arguments over crappy stale pie and melted cool whip.
To be clear, we know you don't really hate your family; you probably just can't stand their personalities, or their neuroses, or their belittling of your neuroses, or their bad jokes about that one time you peed your pants before the school pageant show or whatever. So what self-help tools do we have in 2019? Mindfulness a.k.a. self-soothing pep talks until we're blue in the face. More specifically, we have mantras: "A mantra is a word or phrase that you silently repeat to yourself during meditation," says The Chopra Center. "The purpose of the mantra is to give you something to put your attention on other than your thoughts." Alternatively, we have legions of psychologists and social scientists who have observed decades' of common patterns when human beings inevitably become sick to death of their families and must suppress violent urges.
So for advice about coping with holiday stress, they all seem to agree on the following:
"I am enough"
No passive aggressive remark about your career or your education or how crappy your dessert is actually an attack on your value as a person. But that can be difficult to remember. Psychologist Mark Aoyagi points out that everything is about perspective: "There's something called the Perceptual Appraisal Process," he explains. "It says that the answer to three questions will determine how much pressure, stress or anxiety a particular situation has." He continues, "The key to all those questions is perception. There's no reality or objective rating for each of those questions. It's literally what you perceive, and so the most important part of the process is that you can control your perception."
Those three questions are:
- How important is this to me?
- How likely is it that I'm able to have the outcome that I want? How skilled am I in relation to the task in front of me?
- What control do I have?