Let's face it: Christmas is not always the most joyous time of the year for many people. Even people who typically enjoy spending time with family find it very stressful during the holiday season. There's always a family member you naturally clash with. Aside from that one annoying family member, even other family members can be snippy this time of year because of the stressful expectations we place on the holidays to be perfect. Since getting together can be hard, here are 8 ways to deal with family and stress during Christmas:

1) Remember that you're not obligated.
When it comes down to it, you are not obligated to do anything for the holidays. You're not obligated to bring anything, buy anything, wear a certain something, or even show up if you're not so inclined. However, if you do want to do those things then that's alright also, but just because you're related to someone doesn't mean you owe them anything.

2) Stay positive.
It's a hard thing to do but staying positive and keeping an open mind is going to serve you well. Negativity will only make you more miserable.

3) Take a breather.
When I'm stressed out at a family function, I simply excuse myself and take a breather. I get my husband to watch the kids for five or ten minutes and just retreat to an empty room or outdoors and take a break. Breaks are vital to surviving the holidays.

4) Set a schedule.
Set a schedule and stick to it. So many of us have divorced parents these days and our spouses sometimes have divorced parents as well. Attempting to visit four households in one day is impossible. So, create a schedule ahead of time. Split the time evenly and space it out in a manner that gives you the most comfort. Alert families ahead of time so they know that you can only be there on certain days at certain times to avoid any conflict.

5) Don't be afraid to set boundaries.
The toughest item on this list is setting boundaries with loved ones. It's excruciating and uncomfortable but it simply must be done. If there are certain subjects that you know that you can't handle talking about, let people know. Politely say, "Thanks for the concern, but I'm not willing to discuss that issue." Put a ban on politics, religion, or personal issues if they stress you out. You don't have to answer invasive personal questions like, "So when are you getting married?" or "So when are you going to have a kid?" etc., because it's simply no one else's business but your own.

6) Stay mindful.
It's a simple concept and yet it isn't. Staying mindful just means to stay in the moment. Don't worry about what may or may not happen. Be selective with your word choice. Don't stress but just be aware.

7) Approach with compassion.
As hard as this can be for us all, try to approach people with compassion. People sometimes say things without thinking which prompts us to be upset. I'm not saying to give this person a pass and allow them to say whatever they want. Evaluate their intentions and respond accordingly. Remember, you're allowed to use short, polite, and concise answers, detailed answers, or decline to answer. Just try to show everyone a little compassion, because chances are that they're having a stressful time too.

8) Rejuvenate yourself once it's all over.
Step number 8 is the absolute most important step of all. Make sure that when it's all said and done and you're headed home for the rest of the holiday season to rejuvenate yourself, replenish yourself. Take some time alone to relax, read, nap, unwind - do whatever it is that you do to replenish your emotional energy and spirit. A happy and healthy you is the most important Christmas gift of all.

If you just can't handle family for Christmas, maybe you should consider a trip to Hawaii instead and "Mele Kalikimaka" mellow out!

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