University of Florida expert Heidi Radunovich - an associate professor
in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences' family, youth and
community sciences department and a licensed psychologist reveals quick tips for managing family stress.
1. Lower the bar. It's not going to be perfect. Every family dynamic is different, but expecting a Hallmark-perfect gathering is not realistic for all but the rarest families. "Probably the best solution is to plan ahead and just be realistic," she says. "Just because you love people doesn't mean you easily get along with them."
2. Don't use technology as a crutch. Technology is great, especially when it helps you take time from work to be with family. And it's great when it allows you to connect with friends, Radunovich says. It's not great when you're more connected to the gadget than the family you're spending time with, she said. "It can be difficult to turn it off - you just want to keep checking, did someone respond? Did I get an email? What about Facebook?" she said. "Be sure you are being present with the people you need to be present with."
3. Know your limits. That includes your tolerance level for togetherness, the uncomfortable guest bed, and how much wine you can drink before you say something you shouldn't. "Just know how much you can tolerate, how much togetherness works for you," she says. "It might be three or four days, it might be one afternoon. And better to have one good afternoon together than spending a large quantity of time together and getting into fights, or feeling overwhelmed."
4. Know your limits (part two). Get a hotel. No, really. Radunovich suggests that you know best how much family time you can take before your nerves jangle, so better to stay with an easy-going relative, or book a hotel so you can have your space and a comfortable bed, than stay where you're sure to end up feeling cranky.
5. Find the escape hatch. Holidays are wonderful, but it's easy to forget to take care of ourselves. Calories pile on, there's more alcohol and less sleep. Radunovich suggests: If going for a run helps you stay balanced, do it. Need to go for a drive? Go. "Even if it's just relaxing in the shower for 15 minutes, or taking a hot bath, or meditating in the evening - anything that helps you get a little peace and quiet to center yourself in the midst of all the chaos, is a good idea."