Don’t Let the Turkeys Get You Down

Holidays are a wonderful, exciting and delightful opportunity for getting together with family and friends. That’s good…most of the time. But lots of us have family members who also bring the bad, and even the ugly. Let’s face it: Family get-togethers can be stress-filled events that many of us just try to get through with our psyches in one piece. And, that was before the pandemic.

After the last 20 months, it probably feels great to be able to see people and host a festive celebration. Having the chance to hug your sister or help your folks in the kitchen has new meaning after we missed it last year. And with a bit of planning, you can set some ground rules for your parties that will help you make sure drama is left at the door.

Try these 4 tips to help make this holiday a bit easier, especially if you’re the host:

1. Set boundaries. Everyone has limits, both physical and emotional. Reduce stress by talking out some ground rules in advance. If your family lost members this past year, feelings will run high from the get-go, so be sure to communicate about what is appropriate.
       Start out by setting specific start and finish times for your holiday events. If some people tend to stay too long, make sure you clearly communicate when the party’s over and stick to your guns! Don’t feel obligated to let people stay overnight if they add to the drama. Your house is your safe space. Visitors that make you uncomfortable in your own home should spend the night elsewhere. During the party, avoid triggering topics and refuse to rehash old family drama. We all have familial conflicts and problems in the past. Leave them there! Make sure your guests are aware of the limits. If someone keeps pushing to argue or fight, it’s okay to ask them to leave.

2. Limit alcohol. Yes, a glass of wine with dinner or a beer while watching the game typically isn’t an issue. But you may have a family member (or two) who tends to have that one glass too many and set the fur flying. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and things better left unsaid can come tumbling out. This year, prepare some alcohol-free “mocktails” and have other types of beverages handy. You can always declare that the beverage menu is all about safe driving on the way home. Who can argue with that?

3. Set realistic expectations for everyone, including yourself. No family get-together is perfect. We set ourselves up for disappointment if we think otherwise. A guest or two may not show up; people who said they wouldn’t come might find their way to your door. Food might not all be ready at the same time. People will argue and kids will want to stay in their room. It’s okay. Remember that the holidays are about families reconnecting and enjoying the season together. The evening may not be perfect, but it will be yours.

4. Take time for yourself! Make sure you are taking care of your needs, both physical and emotional. Exercise, a well-balanced diet and enough sleep are critical to navigating the holidays with your sanity and waistline intact. On days you’re entertaining, take a few minutes beforehand to walk around the block. If you have some difficult family members, take some time away from them. Giving them a job—say, peeling potatoes or putting out water glasses—might help them calm down.

Most of us are looking forward to the upcoming holiday season and the chance to reconnect with friends and family in person. Just remember, turkeys should be eaten, not sitting at your dining table.