This article is part of SELF’s Rest Week, an editorial package dedicated to doing less. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally, is impossible without genuine downtime. With that in mind, we’ll be publishing articles up until the new year to help you make a habit of taking breaks, chilling out, and slowing down. (And we’re taking our own advice: The SELF staff will be OOO during this time!) We hope to inspire you to take it easy and get some rest, whatever that looks like for you.
Spending long stretches of time with family can be…difficult, and this even holds true for those of us who have good relationships with our relatives! I love my parents, and we usually get along wonderfully, but spending the holidays at their house is usually the furthest thing from “restful.”
They’re incredibly social people, especially during the lead-up to Christmas. They host multiple (large) holiday gatherings every December—all of which involve tons of prep—and they’re constantly meeting up with friends and acquaintances even outside of their parties. My social battery, on the other hand, isn’t as strong as theirs are: I occasionally have close friends over for a glass of wine, but I don’t host guests nearly as often as they do, and I spend about six out of every seven weeknights curled up on my couch with a good book. It doesn’t take long for me to feel physically and mentally exhausted when I go home for the holidays.
The holidays can feel emotionally draining for a number of other reasons, too. The season can resurface feelings of grief for anyone who’s lost a loved one, Susan Albers-Bowling, PsyD, a psychiatrist and psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. It can also be difficult to spend time with family if you experienced childhood trauma, or if you simply don’t feel close to your family, Justin Puder, PhD, a psychologist based in Boca Raton, Florida, tells SELF.
“It’s taxing, because a lot of us do feel obligated to spend time and interact with people we don’t have close relationships with,” Dr. Puder says. “We think, Oh, it’s family, we’re supposed to be close. But just because it’s family doesn’t mean you have a lot in common with them.”
You may have to be intentional about actually resting during your time with family over the holidays, especially if you usually have a hard time relaxing around your relatives. Below, you’ll find expert tips on how to survive—and thrive—during this time together.
Don’t hesitate to break with tradition.
Many families have holiday activities that they do every single year. My family and I always pick out and decorate our Christmas tree together, deliver baked goods to family friends, and have a celebratory dinner on Christmas Eve. If your family is similar, it might be difficult to suggest changes to the routine, even if you know it’s in your best interest to scale back a bit.