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How to Deal With Family Over The Holidays

The holidays were rough this year and they’re still not entirely over. Usually we have Christmas at my parent’s house with everybody, but this year, my middle brother had to work and my oldest brother is coming into town late.

Christmas day then, was quiet. It was just me and my parents on a snowy morning in December. It wasn’t the same.

There’s something to be said though for quiet holidays. It’s actually kind of nice when there isn’t a lot of activity.

The reason I say this is because sometimes dealing with family can be tough.

It’s amazing to me how three completely distinct personalities can grow up as brothers. Don’t get me wrong we’re still close but it’s the little idiosyncrasies that can cause trouble. These little differences can sometimes become volatile when bottled up together for a long time.

I love my oldest brother but he and his wife can be perfectionists. Add on to that that they just had a little boy who they are naturally very protective of. This causes a little bit of friction between us because the way I live is far from perfect, my house is a little messy, I smoke and I tend to take things very slowly. In essence my relaxed demeanor doesn’t vibe too well with their eagerness to have everything just so.

The thing is though, I think I’m more stressed out by that fact than they are. I feel like I’m expected to perform at their level when they’re in town and that’s just not how I roll.

The point of all this is to say, essentially, that dealing with family can be tough, especially around the holidays when it’s so busy to begin with.

There are several tricks I’ve learned though in the nine years I’ve had to deal with schizophrenia.

First, don’t feel obligated to spend every waking moment with your relatives. If you need a day off don’t be afraid to say so. They most likely won’t be offended if you have to take some time to yourself. Chances are, they probably want the same thing. Of course, having schizophrenia and needing to limit stress gives a little more legitimacy to your request but even if you don’t have to deal with a mental illness, taking some me time can help tremendously.

Another trick is to accept your relatives for how they are and be conscious of the fact that nothing you say or do is going to change them. Having this little tool right out of the gate can save you from a lot of stress via arguments, annoyances, and differing views. Keeping it in mind as you go through the holidays can help you keep quiet and keep smiling. The fact is, people are different and trying to change them is an exercise in futility.

Being conscious of your breathing in stressful moments is also essential for surviving a visit from extended family. If you see or experience something that irks you, take a deep breath or a few until you get over it. Stress relief tactics like this can save you in a moment of crisis and they’re incredibly useful.

Lastly, try to remember that this is only temporary. In a few days, they’ll be back home and you’ll be able to relax and ease back into your routine. It’s ok to both love people and hate them at the same time, that’s essentially what family is. Hopefully the love you have for them outweighs any small annoyance. That’s how unconditional love works.

I know I’ll be using these tips over the next few days and anytime extended family comes to visit. The great thing about them is that they’re versatile and can be used any time of the year and in pretty much any situation with people that you don’t entirely vibe with. Keep them in your back pocket and they’ll be of incredible use to you when you need a little relief.

I love my family but sometimes it’s hard to deal with them and that’s ok

How to Deal With Family Over The Holidays

Michael Hedrick

Michael Hedrick is a writer and photographer who has lived with schizophrenia since he was 20. His work has been featured in Salon, The Week, Scientific American and The New York Times. You can purchase his book 'Connections' here or Follow his blog on Living with Schizophrenia here.

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2015). How to Deal With Family Over The Holidays. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 7, 2019, from


Last updated: 2 Jan 2015
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