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Soothing Family Conflicts During the Holidays

Holidays are already stressful for many people. You have more financial stress, more social obligations, and more travel plans. Compounding these, we often eat worse and exercise less as the days get shorter and colder. Spending the holidays with family can be challenging, especially if you’re just starting recovery. Family members can get under your skin in ways no one else can. Having arguments and conflicts over the holidays is not going to help your recovery but on the other hand, if you can find a sense of connection, it can be a great asset for recovery. Here are some tips for soothing family conflict during the holidays.


Avoid hot-button topics.

Holidays have always been a time for family arguments. When you have a room full of people who may be nursing decades-old resentments, it doesn’t take much to start an argument. That’s especially true now that we seem more divided than ever. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and avoid topics you know will be divisive, especially politics, religion, politics, and politics. Never in the whole history of family members screaming at each other over turkey has anyone ever convinced anyone else to change a political opinion. If you bring up divisive topics, you’ll just end up angry for no good reason. Similarly, don’t take the bait when others bring up divisive topics. 


Look for common ground.

Instead of rehashing the same arguments about politics, religion, or old family conflicts, look for common ground. Think of how you might interact with a stranger, a colleague, a client, or an employee when you feel like it’s important to get along. You don’t dive into the stuff everyone argues about; you talk about the weather or the local sports team. Yes, those are boring topics, but the goal is to build consensus. Keep in mind that you share history and DNA with these people. You have a lot in common and you can build on that if you choose to. Take an interest in their lives. Try to listen and understand without judgment. Connect on a personal level rather than trying to figure out who’s in your tribe. 


Find a way to unwind.

No matter how hard you try, you may still end up feeling stressed at a family gathering. Have a strategy for unwinding. A simple one is to just take a few slow, deep breaths. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system and calms you down. You may also want to step outside for a few minutes so you can be alone and collect your thoughts. After the gathering, it may be a good idea to plan something a little more relaxing, maybe get together with a few friends, go to a meeting, or maybe even get a bit of exercise. 


Every family has its own challenges. For many people with substance use issues, dysfunctional family dynamics are part of the problem. However, family can also be part of the solution. Making an effort to heal old wounds and improve communication can help recovery. At Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California, our holistic treatment program helps men build happier, more connected lives. Call us today at 855-202-2138 to learn more. 

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