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Survive Holiday Family Madness

Five tips for a successful season

Ideas of family often include unconditional love and support, yet the reality is that families often include a lot of hardship. Families can bring complicated relationship dynamics between different personality types. Sometimes, we thrive the most away from our families. Yet the nature of true family is that separate individuals continue to keep in touch and come together throughout their lives. The holiday season is a time when people living their lives separately come together to celebrate. With the increased proximity during the holidays, tensions can arise within families.

I advise people to spend the holidays with family while taking steps to have healthier interactions as well as make healthier decisions.

I love spending time with my children and family during the holidays. We enjoy eating delicious feasts but it’s a daunting task for me to not overeat. Personally, eating desserts could be my downfall. I love it all…cakes, pies, brownies and cookies!! I use my strategy of putting small portions of deserts on my plate for a first round, so that in the VERY likely event that I go back for “seconds”, I’m not beating myself up for the next week over it. Here are five ways to help you control whatever challenges you may face when your family gets together over the holidays:

1. Stay clear of “loaded” topics

There’s a reason for the recommendation not to talk about religion and politics at the dinner table. We hold strong beliefs on these kinds of topics that are unlikely to change. It’s easy for these and other heavy topics to lead to tension, especially among family members. To avoid these flare-ups, stick to light topics. These are the times to talk about your child’s school play, your new hobby and the book you just read.

2. Find an exit strategy

If you find yourself stuck with a particular family member for too long at a gathering, consider politely extracting yourself without seeming to do so. Accomplish this feat by simply excusing yourself to use the restroom or get a drink. After you’ve rescued yourself, re-boot with another family member.

3. Negotiate with extended family

The holidays can also bring situations where you are appeasing extended family. In these cases, I suggest focusing on not always subserving your needs for theirs. If you do, you run the risk of becoming resentful, which can negatively impact the gathering for yourself and others. To make sure your needs and their needs are being met during the holidays, negotiate with your extended family before the occasion. Be creative and think outside the box to find effective solutions to extended family situations.

4. Find a food plan

Family get-togethers, especially during the holidays, generally bring another type of challenge as well: food and alcohol. When the holidays end, we all tend to complain that we ate and drank too much, don’t we? Then, we end up feeling guilty, which isn’t productive. Instead of following that same tired routine, I advise trying a proactive plan that is more productive. Strategizing ahead of time can help avoid the cycle of eating and drinking too much and then feeling guilty.

One way to strategize is to recognize whether you like to take “seconds.” If so, plan to put just a small portion of food on your plate at first so that “seconds” won’t put you overboard. I suggest that people come up with food discipline strategies that fit their own habits and needs to prevent overeating at gatherings. When you’re prepared in advance, it becomes easier to have more self-control.

5. Know your alcohol limit

Also, come up with a plan to avoid drinking too much. I find that some people have more difficulty with a certain type of alcohol. For example, it can be easy to top off wine and take in too much. If you know you’ll drink wine in excess, think of another adult beverage you’d be more likely to slowly sip. Or stick with the wine but come up with a strategy for not overdoing it.

When we have strategies for dealing with family and overindulgence, we can navigate the holidays with grace to better enjoy the company and the spirit of the season.

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