The holidays are upon us and so are the endless family gatherings, present giving and receiving, and general stress that it encompasses. When it comes to the holiday season, many people have a love-hate relationship with it. This tough relationship comes from attempting to navigate the stress without a game plan. So, here is your key guide to making your own successful game plan to handle the holidays.
Family gatherings that are bound to happen mean one thing that most people dread – nosy relatives you haven’t seen in a while. Whether they are asking about why you are single, why you aren’t the president of the USA yet, or why you look the way you do, here is how you should approach awkward family questions. First off, you need to quickly identify why the person may be asking you an awkward question. There are typically six reasons someone may ask you an awkward question, according to Diane Barth’s article “Why People Ask You Awkward and Annoying Questions” in Psychology Today.
First, they may not understand what they are asking; your family member may not get that what they are asking isn’t okay to ask or shouldn’t be asked. If this is the case, you need to approach it as if they mean the best. Tell them you appreciate their concern and redirect their question to something a little more acceptable.
The second, third, and fourth reasons your family members may want to ask awkward questions are just to be rebellious because they believe it’s an important question that should be asked or maybe simply out of anger. If one or both of these are the case, redirect the question to why they are asking you this question. For example, let’s say your cousin, who always gets shut down from asking about political beliefs because she is known to instigate arguments, decides to ask who you will vote for in the next election. Your response can be something like a light-hearted laugh and a reply like, “Why do you want to know?” This will catch her off guard and prompt her to think about why she wants to know and possibly rethink her question. If she says “just ’cause,” light-heartedly say something along the lines of how you think she may want to get into an argument and just walk away.
The last two reasons they ask you these annoying questions is because they are trying to connect with you or they really just want to help. In these cases, they are coming from a positive place, and they really mean well. Thank them for caring and decide if it would actually be in your best interest to answer. Maybe this is a conversation they need to have or you want to have to get closer to them. Maybe through this conversation, you will be helping them instead of the other way around.
The other holiday stress comes from the effort to get presents for everyone. Amazon has a lot of stuff and gift cards from the superstore that often take care of anything a teen, new parents, or grandparents could need. If you want to get more personal in your gift-giving, start early. If you have a cousin who has two kids and a dog, the entire family could benefit from an at-home movie projector. If you have a grandparent you want to personalize a gift for, think about getting a jewelry item with their name, zodiac sign, or a describing word on it.
Now, if you are in the middle of opening presents and you hate the gift, don’t show it. Thank them and try to think about what you could use it for while thinking about your happy place. It may be hard to pretend you love it, so try not to pretend but instead just think about how you could actually use it in order to seem a little more upbeat about it. Also, there’s no rule that you can’t regift it to a friend or sell it without them knowing!
When it comes to the overall stress of the holidays, take a deep breath. Focus on the positives: You get to see people you may not see often, you get presents, and you get time off from work or school. Managing the holiday stress is all about redirecting your thinking, which will shift your mood to be more positive. Do the things you love to do during the holidays and shift your focus away from the things you don’t really love.