Holidays can be a stressful time for many. These visits may not always look like the Hallmark cards or the commercials that plague the TV for weeks prior to the holidays. Everyone may not necessarily be happy, joyful and on their best behavior. South Asians may be worried about being lectured on their major or they may feel pressure to get married or have a child. For some families, there may be unspoken resentment or negative feelings toward each other that have yet to be addressed. It may be the first holiday after a divorce, a lost job, or the death of a loved one. Unresolved conflict between parents can cascade the stress onto children and extended family that are visiting.
There are countless reasons why South Asians may feel stress during the holiday season. Stress can increase the chance of arguments and fights during the holiday weekend which can further exacerbate stress and other emotional and physical health problems.
Here are some ways to minimize conflict so that everyone can enjoy the time together as best as possible.
1. Have realistic expectations. Whether you are hosting a big gathering, just visiting family, or are a guest at someone’s house, expecting perfection is one way to guarantee a stressful weekend. Unreasonable standards will never be reached and the frustration that ensues often comes out on other people. Be mindful of the realities of the upcoming holiday regardless of whether you think those realities should be there or not.
2. Identify your priorities. Is it more important that you impress your mother-in-law with the meal or or to enjoy cooking with your children even if that means the meal is not up to her standards? Many times we have someone else’s voice in our heads telling us what our priorities should be and we often neglect what we believe our priorities are. Cater to the people who are most important. Don’t forget that you, yourself, should be on that list!
3. Know your limits. Some South Asians can be around their family or around certain family members for a limited amount of time. Know your realistic limits and be sure to stick to them so that they don’t get on your nerves so much that you end up starting conflict.
4. Have a keyword or signal. Tell a trusted family member your keyword or signal for when you need to be “rescued”. This can be extremely handy when you are stuck in a conversation with a confrontational or judgmental relative that is hitting buttons. Your family member can run interference before the conversation before it turns ugly, asking you to help in the kitchen or take out the garbage, etc.
5. Incorporate your other worlds. Texting a friend or relative who is not present or checking email can be a much needed respite from a stressful situation. It can also remind you that there are other parts of your life that are continuing despite your presence at a family gathering. This is especially helpful if the family stress is becoming overwhelming and feels all-consuming. It can also act as a great reminder that the holiday is just one day or one weekend.
6. Plan for fun. Some families find stress relief in having a schedule for the weekend so everyone knows what to expect. Make sure to plan in some time to have fun together. If your family enjoys playing games, watching movies or going for walks, be sure to carve out time where everyone from children to grandparents can spend time together in a positive way.
7. Be grateful. Before your family walks in the door or you get on that plane, spend some time and make a list of what you are grateful for in your life. Research has shown that gratitude has a significantly positive impact on your emotional health and can reduce stress.
What do you do to combat holiday stress?
MySahana, meaning my “patience” or “fortitude” in Sanskrit, is a nonprofit
organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues in
the South Asian community. By providing culturally-sensitive and relevant
information, we hope to correct misinformation, remove stigma and begin a
dialogue about mental health and healthy living.
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