Tips for Managing Difficult People & Situations at the Holidays


A beautiful table of food drinks and people gathered for a holiday meal. The holidays can be so stressful for many and Marble Wellness can help you navigate through these times.

We all have those difficult friends and family we see during the holidays that can make a scene or make a snide comment.


We also run into other stressors, like time management and money management, this time of the year. It’s like clockwork.


When it comes to those family members (or friends!) finding a way to make peace or holding back a comeback can seem nearly impossible. For others, the challenge is in navigating gift giving or RSVPs to allllll of the gatherings.


Whatever your challenge, there are definitely helpful, realistic ways to consider managing that difficulty.

A woman looking stressed around the holidays. Marble Wellness offers counseling for stress, overwhelm, anxiety, depression and more.

Here are 8 tips from a Missouri Therapist for managing Holiday stress.


First, set realistic expectations and have a plan in place for difficult situations.

Begin by reminding yourself that the person you are dreading or feeling uncomfortable with will not get the best of you.


Create a mantra you can repeat to yourself and keep it handy in your mind when the difficult feelings and situations arise. Write it down and keep it in a pocket or wallet. For example; say to yourself, “I have worked too hard to allow this person to spoil my event.” Or “I am the bigger person. I will not lower my standards to theirs.”


Years ago on the comedy, King of Queens, one of the characters used to say, “Serenity now,” when a troublesome event would occur. Having an arsenal in place is the key to handling tough situations.


Second, remember to take a deep breath before reacting to a situation.

Walking away from a heated situation is a perfectly good solution. Quietly say, “Excuse me.” And then find a quiet place to cool down. Ask yourself at that moment; “Is this person or situation worth the energy it will take you to explode or make an unkind comment?”


Individuals tend to forget there is power in keeping a level head and not stroking an argument.


Third, have an outlet to vent.

By “outlet to vent”, we don’t necessarily mean person/place to talk it out, though that certainly could be the outlet. But it could be as simple as screaming into a pillow, running cold or warm water over your wrist, taking a walk or a run, crumpling up paper and tossing it into a waste basket, or writing in a journal. The point is: have a place to get the frustrations and pent up thoughts o-u-t of your system.


Another great technique is to practice progressive muscle relaxation.


Begin by getting in a quiet place and tensing up your face; then releasing, then your shoulders, tightening your hands and squeezing; then tightening your stomach muscles, legs and finally your toes.


Hold each body part for five seconds and then release.


This will allow you to release the tension throughout your body.


So many of us hold in the stress, instead of releasing it. Then what happens is we take it out on the people in our lives whether we believe they deserve it or not. This damages relationships and puts a strain on many areas of our lives.

A woman releasing stress by using progressive muscle relaxation. Marble Wellness is a therapy practice specializing in stress, anxiety, depression, overwhelm and much more.

Fourth, finding a therapist to talk about issues can help you to unburden yourself.

It can give you the tools needed to survive the holidays. Many potential clients will wait until after the holidays to find a therapist-that’s fine! But, if you really think about it, being in therapy during the holidays can relieve stress and help you cope and find ways to deal with the difficult people and situations in your life.


Also, having the emotional outlet of attending current therapy is helpful during these chaotic times. Some clients take a break from therapy during the holiday–schedules do get busy!-but this could be the best time for maintaining support and strategy with your therapist.


Fifth, choose wisely who you invite to your gatherings

If someone sets off you or a family member, you have the right and ability not to engage with that person.


Also, choose which parties you attend. Set your boundaries as to how much you can handle. If you are obligated to attend, set the expectations of how long you plan to stay, and stick to it.


Sixth, spend less money when preparing for the holidays.

Overspending causes stress. Create a budget and stay close to it. Everyone is feeling the pinch with these stressful economic times. Let your friends and family know ahead of time that you need to spend less. Everyone will understand and may feel relieved. You can come up with creative ways to spend less money and spend more quality time with the ones you love and care about. The holidays can be a joyful time of spending time with the ones we want to spend time with.


Seventh, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.

Let yourself off the hook that everything doesn’t have to be perfect during the holidays.


Finally, as you look around the table with the ones you love, consider gratitude.

(Or tolerate)--take a moment to show gratitude to each of them. Find one small thing you appreciate about them and let them know. Enjoy the moment and take it in.


After all; we do say, “Happy Holidays!”

A group of family members gathered at the table for the holiday cutting turkey and looking very happy. Marble Wellness can help mend relationships and help you in dealing with life challenges.


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