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Home for the holidays

Photo By: telegraph.co.uk


Carlie Bright, Lifestyles Editor

Next week is finals week. And most of us are feeling stressed, not just with exams – but perhaps also with heading home for the holidays.

Sure, we’re getting away from school for a much needed few weeks. But many of us also must go back into the world that we left behind and no longer feel “used to.” Whether it’s once again falling back into a routine of living with parents or actually dealing with large family Christmas gatherings, students often feel anxious as they dive into family interactions once again.

“How was the semester?” asks grandma. “Got a boyfriend yet?” your nosy aunt interrupts. “How about a job – are you searching?” asks everyone else. Likely, we deal with these questions everyday even as we ask them to ourselves. Hearing them over and over again throughout the holidays will only add onto the tension that we feel.

My personal go-to answer, especially with the job hunt questions, is a simple “We’ll see what happens.” This typically ends the conversation fairly quickly and leads on to the next identical conversation with someone else thirty seconds later. But I feel that it makes things easier.

However, this holiday induced anxiety isn’t just about such simple stresses for some people. In fact, many people suffer more severe and anxiety depression during the holiday season. With so many family members gathering together, Christmas is actually the most common time for holiday arguments brought on by various reasons from differing viewpoints to sibling favoritism to even agreeing on what to do.

Relate counselor Rachel Davies cites two main reasons for many family fallouts. The first is that people who face difficulties throughout the year try to put on a brave face for their families in order to not bring anyone else down and to keep a happy celebration going. They often think that they can hide these emotions for a few days and then resume following the holidays, according to NetDoctor. Another reason is that a lot of families feel pressure to live up to the Hallmark version of extended family Christmas festivities, which are often unrealistic to surmount.

But, according to NetDoctor, there are several ways to deal with these common obstacles. First things first – plan ahead. If you know that conflicts typically arise in your extended family gatherings and feel uncomfortable in those situations, only plan for smaller allotted periods of time to spend with them. You still get time with your family, but you know that you will still have time to yourself to keep your sanity in line.

While you are with them, also be willing to compromise. Not everyone in a family will agree on certain things and that is okay. But being aware of this and making yourself open to other ideas will likely only help you in the long run. It can’t always be just about you or just about them. You don’t have to stick to their ideas forever, but one day won’t be the end of the world. While you’re at it, be sure to avoid heavy conversations. Attempting to fix a large problem at stake will only make things worse. You can’t become the savior of the world in a matter of hours and they can’t try to tackle your life in that time either.

If you feel comfortable with someone in your family that you believe you can trust, try expressing your concerns to them ahead of time. You will have at least one person in your boat so you don’t have to hold it all inside to yourself. Perhaps you can come up with a plan or an idea together. Who knows – maybe you even share the same concerns.

And if all else fails, seek help. You won’t be alone as reports indicate a 24% increase in calls to therapists as family conflicts arise at Christmas time, according to Dr. Lucy Blake from the Centre of Family Research at Cambridge University.

No matter what you are anticipating from your family this holiday season, enjoy the time to yourself that this long break will bring your way. And know that all families are a bit crazy when together. That’s what makes them unique. Embrace the weird and be thankful for the people who will (or at least should) love you unconditionally.