Awww! The Holidays! We all love them. We plan for them, make special food for them and vacation around them. It’s a time of family gatherings and going home. For some, it’s also a time of strife. Not all members of all families get along. Which can really make going home a stressful and unpleasant situation, but today I’ve got 10 tips to help you survive the holidays with family, and maybe help keep the stress to a minimum.

Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Love, Pray fame gave two wonderful quotes from her Indian teacher that sums up holiday family gatherings perfectly. They were:

“If you think you’re spiritual and evolved and enlightened, go home for Christmas and see how it goes.”

And

“We have an obligation to love everybody in the world. But some people we must love from a safe distance.”

Be realistic about the upcoming family gathering. Most families have some underlying tensions running through them and getting together over the holidays seems to be the perfect time for them to bubble to the surface.

Before you arrive think about whom or what may cause the tension and how you could potentially avoid it. You can’t control other people, but being aware of possible triggers for tense situations to occur is the first step in successfully navigating any potential chaotic moments.

If it all gets too much, here are some tips to help you regain your sanity, if only temporarily.

Think Positively 
Go into each gathering or conversation with a positive mindset. It’s easier to maintain a positive attitude if you arrive in that mental state. You may have a relative or friend that injects negativity into every conversation. You’re never going to change that person’s behavior so a positive attitude can make interactions more pleasant.

Volunteer to Pick Someone Up from the Airport or Bus Station
Only do this if the person you are picking up is someone you get along with. Listen to your favorite music or just enjoy the peace and quiet on the drive to pick them up.

Say You’ll Wash the Dishes
Watch how quickly the kitchen clears out when you say you’ll wash the pots and pans. The time alone in the kitchen can actually be very therapeutic as you deal with the dramatic personalities gathered around the Christmas tree.

Take the Dog for a Walk
You’ll score brownie points with the family by braving the cold and taking the dog for a brisk walk around block. While you’re walking unload all those pent up frustrations to the dog. By the time you get back things should look a lot clearer and you know the dog won’t repeat the conversation.

Fake a Phone Call
Leave the room, if only for 10 minutes, and if you don’t want to talk to anybody check your email and social media feeds.

Take Out the Trash
Taking out the trash allows you a few minutes to breathe in some fresh air and recharge from the noise around you.

Spend Time Outdoors
Take an early morning walk or jog around the block or park, a hike through the mountains or an evening stroll around a lake. Organize some family members and throw a football or Frisbee, go ice-skating or make snow angels. Getting outdoors and doing something active can shake off and interrupt the mental agitation that creeps in during family get togethers.

Fun Conversations
Some fun, lighthearted conversations that everyone can participate in helps keep the experience positive and can make lasting memories. Ask each person at the dinner table what their all time favorite present was as a child and why? Who or what inspires them? What is their favorite movie? You may learn things you never knew about a person from some simple, fun questions.

Plan Some Activities for the Indoors
Laughter is the best medicine. Make popcorn, bake and decorate holiday cookies, play board games, Charades, Twister or watch comedies. When people are enjoying each other’s company they bring an air of lightheartedness and the time flies by.

Don’t Lose Yourself in the Chaos
Holiday time can be chaotic and we tend to put everyone else’s needs before our own. If you are feeling overwhelmed talking to a trusted friend can help. If not, read a book, listen to some music, go for a walk, drink a hot chocolate, enjoy time with a pet, take a relaxing bath, do some yoga or spend time in prayer or meditation.

Bonus Tip: Essential Oils

I use essential oils not only to calm myself, but also to calm family situations. I diffuse calming, uplifting oils like Wild Orange, Lemon, Lavender, and Peppermint. Here’s an article I wrote about essential oils and mood: Aromatherapy If you’d like to know the high quality oils that I use, you can find them here: doTERRA