Heightened feelings of stress are familiar during the holidays because this time of year often includes the extra to-dos of the season, worries about finances, and additional time commitments. The holidays also set the stage for renewing family connections, which can increase tensions associated with the relationships involved.

By choosing to be proactive rather than reactive in handling your stress, you will be able to manage holiday hassles and tensions more effectively. Thinking ahead will help you figure out which pitfalls of the holiday season can be eliminated and which can be modified in order to reduce associated stress.

Here are a few ideas that might help you relieve some of the tensions that affect relationships over the holiday season:

  • Visualize and then do. How do you see yourself and those close to you really enjoying a relaxed and peaceful holiday experience? Your celebrations over the season can include something and someone new rather than the same people, holiday rituals, and activities every season, particularly if some people, rituals, and activities are sources of conflict.
  • Plan ahead and communicate. Think through a holiday schedule that will work for you—one that reduces conflicts—and then let others know your intentions in advance. This preplanning might include how to divide holiday chores, manage family members’ unique personalities, and group activities together.
  • Regulate your attitude. Be realistic about your expectations, anticipate problems, and then maintain perspective so the values of the season are foremost in your mind. It might help to remind yourself that the season is time limited, so any holiday-specific stresses are also time limited.
  • Minimize personal stress. Maintain your sense of humor, limit the time you spend with more difficult family members, and take a break from the hubbub by going for a walk or engaging in some other activity you find enjoyable.

Be proactive—adopt new strategies that encourage a healthier and more enjoyable holiday.