Let’s face it: going home for the holidays can be stressful. I love my family, and sometimes I genuinely enjoy spending time with them. Those lazy days after Christmas, when my cousin and I stretch out on the couch together, reading books we finally have time to read, or pulling out board games and arguing about whether Monopoly is more fun than whatever hipster strategy game he’s brought home. Then there are the holidays when everyone seems to be fighting, when I’m sure that my family is five kinds of crazy, or when I’m being dysfunctional and acting crazy myself. Or the holidays dominated by people bickering over minuscule things that can’t possibly matter.

Or the days when I miss my parents – who died years ago – so much that it’s painful to be around the rest of my family. (No matter how grateful I am for my aunt and uncle who’ve taken me in and treated me as one of their own, and for my husband and child and in-laws who prove to me that families grow, that love comes out of loss.)

So yeah, spending time with family at the holidays is tricky and complicated for me. I think it’s tricky and complicated for a lot of people. I can say, from experience, that the answer is not to yell at a family member and then run from the house (only to realize it’s super cold and you brought neither coat nor shoes). So, dear friends, I offer you 10 better ways to survive the holidays with your family.

Be yourself

Not some idealized version of yourself, or the person your mother, your mother-in-law, or even your significant other wants you to be.

Let go of expectations

If you expect the holidays to be perfect, you’ll end up feeling disappointed. If you expect the holidays to be terrible, you’ll make them terrible. So: let go, stay in the moment, and see what happens when you aren’t expecting anything.


If you need help staying in the moment, pay attention to how you’re breathing. Fast? Slow? Calm? Frantic? Listening to your body helps ground your mind. This is one of many ways you can take care of yourself.


Maybe you need to calm down. Maybe you need to pump yourself up. Maybe you need to get everyone dancing. Bring headphones and varieties of music for any occasion or mood you might find yourself in. If it’s a particularly noisy environment, I suggest noise-cancelling headphones.

Find a project

It’s good to occupy your time, whether it’s spending all day cooking, or compiling a family scrapbook, or binge-watching that new show you’ve been dying to get into. The key to holiday projects? They need to belong to you. Choose something you can take the lead on, which others can join if they want.

Serenity now

Find a quiet space where you can do a little yoga, meditate, write down your feelings, or whatever helps you find peace within yourself.


It’s a sure-fire way to clear the mind and get rid of some of those pumpkin-pie related calories.

Get out of the house

There’s no sense feeling confined. Whether you’re going for a run, grabbing a bite to eat, seeing that new movie just out at the theatre, or getting a mani-pedi – you’ll be glad for that breath of fresh air.

Change the scenery

Instead of hosting at your place or heading to your mother-in-law’s, take the family to a cabin in the woods or a cottage on the beach. And if you can’t change your actual location, find ways to make the environment you’re in more fun.

Be open to connecting with your loved ones

Sometimes we get lost in all the food preparations and the complicated family dynamics. But when we gather for the holidays, the point is to connect, to bond, to learn about each other. When you allow yourself to be the real you, and you take care of your own needs, you’re able to truly connect with your family.