Take the Stress Out of Holiday Guests

Take the Stress Out of Holiday Guests

How to get in the right state of mind before the hordes arrive.

By: Grace Hwang-Lynch

Plan Ahead
For a lot of moms, holiday stress begins soon after the Halloween sugar high wears off. Sure there’s the excitement of extended time with the relatives … then again, there’s all that extended time with the relatives. But you can keep your anxiety levels in check with some advance planning, communication and getting in the right state of mind.

Accept Imperfection
Trying to create a flawless event creates a bunch of nervous energy that probably isn’t productive. “We get stress hormones, from adrenaline to progesterone," says Martin Novell, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist. “And these hormones prevent us from proactively thinking and planning. And what they do produce is reactivity to anything that’s in front of us.”

Make an Ally
Talk to your spouse before any arrangements are made. It may seem obvious, but letting your husband know why you are anxious or irritable can help him be more sympathetic (read: more helpful) once the visit is under way. “If you have an agreement with your husband and talk this through, it will be easier because you have an ally,” Novell says.

Communicate with respect and understanding. Be upfront with guests about potential problems, but first let them know you respect and appreciate them. Has it been a while since you've seen far-away aunts, uncles or cousins? Jump in and break the ice, Novell says. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions," he says, "as opposed to [thinking], if I ask these questions, it shows how out of touch we are.”


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Ask for Help
Asking for help can make guests, particularly older ones, feel more involved. “The elders don’t want to be put to the side [to] feel useless. They want to feel useful,” says Novell. “Even moving the dishes from the dining room to the kitchen is helpful, and they know that.”

Be Willing to be Flexible
The reason many parents feel anxious when guests come to visit is the fear that their kids will turn into little terrors when their routines are disrupted. It’s an especially delicate situation when older relatives have different ideas about child rearing. “If they live [far] away ... it may be wise to yield to them, because it really eliminates conflicts,” says Novell.

MORE: Cherishing the Holidays

MORE: Holidays With a New Baby

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