The holidays bring joy, good cheer and a sense of good will. Unless you have a wild family, then they bring stress, pressure and anxiety. There are a variety of reasons the holidays can move from a serene gathering of loved ones to a dreaded series of events. There is an equal number of strategies to reset ourselves, however, and keep what is most important at the forefront. Here are Five Ways to Keep Your Sanity During the Holidays.


1. Do Something Different

Start a new tradition that you enjoy. Rather than falling into the same old holiday routine, add something that you want to do. This ensures that at least one thing gives you joy during the holidays. Don’t ask for consensus or allow yourself to be vetoed. Say, “I’m going to <fill in the blank with your activity>. Would anyone like to come with me?” Ideally, this will start a new tradition, but even if no one comes along you’ll get some precious alone time.


2. Don’t Overdo It


Your last name isn’t Claus or Kringle, so reign it in. This includes your stay (or your availability for others to stay) so that no one wears out their welcome. It includes your budget; don’t let yourself go overboard and end up literally paying for it in the end. It includes expectations. You don’t live in a Thomas Kinkade painting and your family never sat for a Norman Rockwell.  If you expect that kind of idealized perfection, you’re bound to be disappointed.


3. Accept Your Family


Similar to understanding that your holiday won’t be picture perfect, accepting that there will be people you love with all their complexity, paradox and flaws will keep your expectations grounded. Whenever you catch yourself internally saying how things “should” be, let that go. You can’t make people conform to your “shoulds”. Getting wrapped up in how family should think and behave will only lead to your own frustration. Instead, be curious.  Ask questions and be a good listener. How on earth could they think that was a good idea? Ask and find out. We all act rationally from our own point of view. If this doesn’t work, then imagine yourself as a scriptwriter gathering material for the next holiday comedy. That trick can give you some objectivity and allow you to laugh at yourself and absurdity.


4. Look Past the Role


We humans tend to allow ourselves to go on autopilot with things that are familiar. This is fine for our rote daily tasks (when was the last time you had to actually think to tie your shoes?) but when this psychological process happens in families, then we can trap people in roles. For example, the youngest sibling may always be the “baby” of the family even when they bring a family of their own to the holidays. Or the black sheep may continue to receive an inordinate amount of judgment, even though they’re a successful adult. Allow your family to be who they are today without pushing them into a role they outgrew when they moved out of the house. Likewise, if you feel the pressure to move into a role you’ve long put away, demonstrate your maturity instead.


5. Remember the End


If all else fails, we know that the holidays have an end date. Once the season is over, we can get back to being ourselves and re-enter our normal lives. We can rely on basic human instincts to persevere and survive to bring us through the other side. That’s a reassuring thing about the holidays - if nothing else, we can wait it out until they’re gone. Or you might get lucky with a Thanksgiving Miracle.