Mother happy outdoors with daughter

As fun as the holidays may be, all that time with family can leave you feeling tired, irritated, and grouchy. Parties, cooking, entertaining, shopping, traveling, and dealing with winter colds create extra stress--not to mention that being around relatives can bring up old grudges and family drama you thought was in the past. Other than completely avoiding family during the holidays, how can you take care of yourself in the midst of all the stress and recuperate after it's all over?

Tips to Reduce Stress While You're with Family
You may be eager to see everyone and at the same time feel nervous or tense about certain interactions. While these feelings are perfectly natural, the following tips can help you manage stress that may come up during a holiday visit:

  • Be prepared. If your brother always criticizes you for your wardrobe, your choice of boyfriends, or your lack of attention to recent literature, be prepared. Realize that you can't change other people. The best approach is to be prepared for dealing with them. Brace yourself for any criticism, trying not to take it personally and steer the conversation toward topics you both enjoy discussing.
  • Cut out one activity. If you often feel overwhelmed during the holidays, find a way to cut out one activity. Skip one holiday party, buy a pie instead of baking it, or forgo sending out Christmas cards. The more healthy and rested you feel, the better you'll be able to deal with stress.
  • Protect your personal space. Being in the same house for days with several other people you rarely see can tax your nerves--especially when you feel like you've lost your personal space. Carve out one place where you can go to be alone, even if you have to drive to get there.
  • Put aside the judgment. You may not like being criticized by your family members, but are you doing it, too? Even if you aren't speaking your criticisms out loud, you may be criticizing them internally. Try to set aside judgment for a few days and you'll feel more loving towards your family members.
  • Set limits on holiday spending. The holiday spirit can push you toward spending more than you should, which may leave you feeling resentful or worried about the financial fallout after the wrapping's been thrown away. Set limits weeks beforehand as to what you can afford to spend and stick to it.

Tips to De-Stress after the Holidays
Once the holidays are over, you may have a myriad of feelings keeping you up at night. Maybe you had a fight with your mother-in-law or you keep replaying something your sister said over and over in your head. Maybe you're blaming yourself for failing to make it all perfect. All this stress can make you sick, cause you to overeat, and sap your energy. Here's how to shed the holiday aftermath and refocus positive energy in your life:

  • Get some sleep. There's nothing better than sleep for healing your body and mind. As the days get shorter, nights gets longer, making winter the perfect time for catching up on sleep. Go to bed an hour early each night until you start feeling energetic again.
  • Get some exercise. It will kick-start the feel-good endorphins in your brain and help you work out some unresolved anger and irritation--not to mention, it will help you sleep better.
  • Schedule a weekend away. If the holidays were exhausting, you may need to reconnect with your husband or wife or just take some time for yourself. Schedule a long weekend away for some real rest and relaxation.
  • Start something new. Try a new hobby or sport or join a club. Shaking up your routine can get you out of the holiday doldrums.
  • Remind yourself of the good things. If you find yourself feeling low or beat up after too many rounds of family criticism, take some time to review your accomplishments. Write them down to remind yourself of all the good things you've done.
  • Send thank-you notes. Studies have shown that feeling grateful helps improve your mood. Thank each family member for their contribution to the holidays. You'll brighten their day while helping yourself feel better about the whole experience.