The holidays are approaching and that means oh @#it family time! While the holidays can be a time of great joy, they can also be a time of great stress. No family is perfect and no matter how “normal” your family is there is bound to be some crazy here and there. Why is it that stable, well-functioning people can suddenly turn into raging lunatics when with family? Your mother who continually asks when you are going to get married. Your brother-in-law who makes off-colored jokes. Your sister who always seems to be in competition with you. Your grandmother who sits in her nightie on the front porch cat-calling neighbors. Your family…you love them but you don’t always like them. Here are some tips to navigate the holidays with more cheer and less fear.

1. Communicate: Express your thoughts and feelings in a respectful, adult manner. Yelling, screaming, and cursing is not mature. Remember you can always say “no.” If something your parents often say to you bugs you, let them know before hand how their comments impact you and ask them to back off. Let your family know when you will be able to attend and when you must leave. Too often the natural tendency to avoid difficult conversations leads to greater conflict.

2. Be Flexible: Many people have ideas of what holidays “should” be like. The more you are able to “go with the flow” the less stress you will experience. Try different foods. Change the time of dinner if need be to accommodate family changes such as splitting holiday time as a result of a divorce. Make new traditions. Work together to make the holiday unique to your family.

3. Have Realistic Expectations: If you have the idea of a “perfect” holiday, you are likely to be disappointed. So don’t “tinsel” your expectations. Don’t feel the need to put on your “super woman” cape. Do not expect the kids to eat some fancy new creation you have made. Do not expect your uncle to suddenly drink less. Recognize that your crazy family holiday is your “perfect” holiday.

4. Recognize Your Feelings: It is okay if you are not feeling 100% joy. Be mindful of emotional triggers and feelings of sadness, loneliness, and frustration. When you start to experience these feelings, take a few moments for yourself.

5. Accept Your Differences: Do you really expect your family members to change? That is just setting yourself up for failure and frustration. Work on accepting your family members for who they are, the good, bad, and ugly. If you focus on acceptance, you are more likely to be able to go “with the punches” and maybe even find some humor.

6. Maintain Perspective: Your mother badgering you about your relationship status is an annoyance; it is not the end of the world. If you put this into perspective, you are less likely to overreact. Remember, the holidays may seem like forever yet really they are only a brief moment in the course of a year. You can handle whatever the day may bring, as tomorrow is a new day.

7. Reflect On Your Blessings: Yes, it is cliché but it is true. Focus on the positive things in your life, even small things. We often rely on the holidays to connect with family and to make up for possible disconnect during the rest of the year. That is too much pressure to put on one day. Focus on the positive interactions and life events that have occurred all year.

8. Structure Activities: Playing family games or watching a movie allows for your family to spend time together while also minimizing interactions that can lead to conflict. Of course, if your family is super competitive, it may be best to stick with a movie and avoid games. But you get the idea.

9. Incorporate Self-Care: Again, another cliché yet oh so true. Avoid overindulging in sweets or alcohol. Make sure to get enough sleep and exercise. The better you are able to take care of yourself, the better you are able to manage frustrations.

10. Be Wary Of Social Media: Are all of your friends posting cute, make me puke, family photos on Facebook? Are you intimidated by the recipes and DIY crafts on Pinterest? Remember, most people post only positive things. Most people won’t post that they had a bad day and ate a whole bag of cookies. Do not compare yourself to others and set up unrealistic expectations for yourself and your family. Keep perspective and take a time out from social media if need be.

With these tips I’m hoping you have a happy holiday season!