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How To Thrive During Family Holiday Marathons

Ana Polanco

picjumbo.com_HNCK2763I love the holidays. I love my family.

We drive each other crazy when we’re all together for the holidays…and I love it!

I have the unique situation of having a family that lives in four countries and on three continents. When we are all together, we OD on comfort foods, family gossip, driving each other crazy, giving each other unsolicited advice, laughing, and talking until we enter a full on coma.

These family marathons are epic. While I’m in the middle of it, it is totally and completely overwhelming. Everyone in the family is guaranteed to have at least one single breakdown, including the children. But because I live far away from them, I become nostalgic for these gatherings when I can’t have them all the time. It’s these moments that remind me of how grateful I am for my family and our unique experience.

My nostalgia is less about these gatherings and more about the idea of wanting to be with relatives in a less stressful way. I long for the days when I might walk down the street to visit with my cousin or take my aunt to lunch and her cafecito. The distance an infrequency of our visits has made me grateful for every memory that we make together no matter how crazy.

Even though our family holiday marathons are not ideal, I have learned a few important lessons that help alleviate the stress and pressure of spending too much concentrated time with our loved ones. Here are some tips as you get ready for your next family holiday marathon:

Ask for What You Want. Saying things like “I’ll do whatever you want to do” is actually not helpful. Have an opinion. You think you're being accomodating by remaining silent. But the truth is that sharing your likes and dislikes helps your family get to know you better and it also alleviates group dynamics when no one wants to make a decision.

Understand that Everyone Changes.  Just because you have goals and dreams that differ from your family does not mean you don’t have things in common. Even though you may think moving away from home has changed you radically and that you are misunderstood, remember that we all change. It’s the one thing we can count on. Give your family members the benefit of the doubt and try and really get to know them.

Get One on One Time. Having one on one time with a family member can help you get to know each other or help you reconnect with them. Even if you only get one chance, taking a walk with a cousin or an aunt or uncle can radically transform how you seem them and how they see you. Building one on one relationships can ultimately strengthen family group dynamics.

Keep at Least One Habit that Recharges You: Your habits can help you make it through holiday marathon events. While I am visiting family I try to keep to a habit that helps me relieve stress and provides me a chance to recharge. Going for a run, meditating or even getting an hour of alone time at the mall or in nature helps alleviate the stress of being in the heat of some of the most memorable family reunions.

Be Grateful: Whether its the family you were given or the family you chose, remember to thank others for the role they play in your life and for simply being. Gratitude fills us with love and compassion, provides healing and strengthens the bonds of our family, friends and loved ones.

Your turn:  How do you cope during the holidays? What’s your family holiday marathon story?

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