Anxiety: How to Cope When You’re With Family in the Holidays


Coping with Family

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years typically feel like a busy time, but due to the way this year’s calendar worked, it seems that people are feeling even more overwhelmed than usual with this holiday season. Thanksgiving fell late this year, meaning that by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, we were already in December, resulting in a seemingly condensed and saturated holiday season. For many, the holidays indicate increased time spent with family, which can be stressful, chaotic and anxiety inducing. Please read on for some of Madeline Weinfeld, LMSW’s recommendations for ways to cope with increased family time.

  1. Create YOU time
    • Perhaps the most important thing one can do when spending increased time with family is to make sure to create time for themselves. Some families may promote independent time more than others, but space can be important for everyone. Consider waking up early to go for a walk in the morning by yourself, going to see a movie on your own one afternoon or simply spending some time in a room by yourself reading a book. Having moments throughout the day that are simply yours will help balance out the louder, more chaotic time spent in a family gathering.
  2. Maintain your typical self-care practices
    • If you rely on a morning meditation or grounding exercise to start your day, be sure to continue that same process while with your family. It may be more important than ever to ground yourself during the holiday season when emotions tend to run high. Perhaps exercise serves as your self-care, so even if you are away from your typical workout studio, be creative in finding a way to exercise during the holidays. If you are out of town for a while, consider scheduling a phone or video session with your therapist if they offer virtual sessions as a means of maintaining therapy as a self-care practice.
  3. Focus on shared interests for conversations & activities
    • In order to decrease conflict and improve quality of time spent together, try to focus on the shared interests while with your family. If everyone enjoys bowling, suggest a bowling night rather than pushing your family to do something you know they won’t enjoy. This applies to conversation topics as well. If you know everyone at the dinner table has different political views, but all share a love of the same sports team, try gravitating conversation towards sports rather than the upcoming election.
  1. Acknowledge and express gratitude (
    • Though family time can be stressful, there are likely opportunities throughout your holiday festivities to acknowledge and express gratitude. Perhaps you feel grateful for your childhood home that your parent(s) still lives in, grateful for the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, or grateful that your brother has finally stopped seeing his difficult ex-girlfriend. Acknowledging and expressing gratitude can improve your mood, reduce anxiety and improve your quality of time spent with family.
  1. Set realistic expectations
    • It will be important to set realistic expectations before going to a family gathering so as to reduce your chances of being disappointed. For example, if your family never exchanges gifts for the holidays, it can be helpful to go into the holiday expecting to not receive a gift. Unmet expectations lead to resentment and resentment complicates time spent with family.

While it is helpful to create realistic expectations, it is also valuable to allow yourself hope that things can be good, and perhaps even better, than they have been before. If you incorporate the other steps on this list, you may find that family time this year has been more enjoyable than in the past.


Gateway to Solutions is wishing everyone safe, healthy and happy holidays and New Year!

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