Christmas is just around the corner — for many, a time of cheer.
But the holidays are also tough for many who know spending several days with their families brings chaos, judgment, and the reopening of old wounds — particularly now the political chasm between the generations seems wider than ever.
It's always vital to look after your mental health, but Christmas get-togethers with family members you only see once a year and too much wine can bring about unpleasant moments that burn us out.
Niels Eék, a psychologist for the mental health platform Remente, told Insider there are some key coping mechanisms that can ease us through the holiday season with less stress and angst this year.
(Photo by Paola Chaaya)
"A lot of the time, stressful situations can make us feel helpless and trapped," he said. "Always trying to think about possible solutions will not only keep you calm and rational, but will also help you solve the problem at hand."
'Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing'
Firstly, he said arguments usually arise from miscommunication or rash responses, which often aren't intentional.
"If you want to avoid a row, it's often beneficial to take a step back and try to understand all of the viewpoints involved," he said. "Examining the bigger picture is key. What is everyone trying to achieve?"
For example, if tensions are running high around the Christmas preparations, write all the tasks down and delegate them by priority. Or if a relative has said something you think is hurtful, try and work out what they meant without reading between the lines. In other words, be diplomatic, Eék said.
"Sometimes people can say hurtful things without noticing," he said. "Instead of adding fuel to the fire, put it out by answering with a diplomatic response, such as 'thank you for your opinion, I'll think about it' or 'what did you mean by that, could you explain a bit further?'"
(Photo by Toa Heftiba)
Listening is always your friend when it comes to communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you. It's better to attempt a base level of respect before firing shots that aren't going to get you anywhere.
Of course, if you're not being granted the same respect in return, you're well within your rights to excuse yourself and no longer interact with that person.
"Even if forgiveness is impossible, take a deep breath and try to stay calm," Eék said. "After all, you're unlikely to see them again for a long time, and it might be worth it for the sake of everyone else's Christmas to just smile and power through it."
Don't spread yourself too thin this year
As we get older, we realize there is no real obligation to spend time with people who have hurt you. Unfortunately, for some people, that includes their families.
But whatever your situation, the excitement around Christmas can mean spreading yourself too thin. That's why Eék said it's important to say "no" around this time of year. Trying to cram everything in means you can lose out on resting, which can make everything else more frustrating and exhausting.
(Photo by Drew Coffman)
It's just as justified to make time for what's important to you — whether that's getting enough sleep, exercising, or reading a book — as it is to spend time with friends and family. So never apologize for taking some time to take care of yourself, and for making decisions about the events you actually want to attend.
"Knowing the motivations behind your decisions will help you figure out what you want to do this Christmas," said Eék. "And who you want to spend your time with."
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
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