HOUSTON (Nov. 23, 2010) – Put on your plastic smile and dust off your Kevlar suit, Aunt “One-Upper” Judy and her “Passive Aggressive is my Forte” husband are coming to spend the holidays with you. And so is cousin Lenny who spews negativity and cousin Harry with his girlfriend of the month.
Between now and the end of the year Houstonians will be spending a lot of time with family. While some people relish togetherness, to some it is an added stress.
So how do you deal with your extended family for days on end during this holiday season and the repeated reminders that you never live up to Grandmother Rose’s expectations?
“We have to remind ourselves what the holiday season is about — focus on the good and beautiful season,” said Britta Ostermeyer, MD, chief of psychiatry, Ben Taub General Hospital and the Harris County Hospital District. “And we also have to remind ourselves that we aren’t perfect, and neither is our family.”
While the fact that you’re not perfect is still sinking in, it’s important to remember: The way a person’s life is at the moment may dictate the way they act.
“If people are unhappy or stressed out, they may act out, say hurtful things and point out flaws to make themselves feel better,” Ostermeyer said.
But it all comes down to planning, choices and attitudes.
“Holidays are stressful. What may start out as a nice visit with family may end with relatives bringing up conflicts from years past,” Ostemeyer said. “While you can’t control the other person, you can control your action and response.”
When things get tense, Ostermeyer suggests:
- Taking a deep breath
- Think before speaking
- Speak calmly
- Take a walk
But remember, you only see these people for a short time, so make the best of it.