This time of year can either build you up to new heights, or wear you down into seasonal depression. Between shopping for gifts, hosting the family gathering, cooking, and decorating; the to-do list is never ending. If you are already yelling, “God bless us, everyone” to strangers, good job. You’re a holiday superstar. Conversely, you may be part of the 98% of humanity that stresses over this season. Here are a handful of tips to remain calm while spending holidays with the family.

Meditate for a Calm State

Mindfulness Meditation has become commonplace in today’s fast-paced world. Finding a few minutes to reconnect with your center has long-lasting physiological benefits. Likewise, it’s not just for Buddhists or our hippy uncles anymore. From Special Forces Operators to bigwig CEO’s, meditation is being practiced across the spectrum.

Basic Meditation for Family Holidays

If the holidays are destroying your sense of calm, take five minutes to yourself and just breathe. In his book, I Wanna Be Well, author and rad dude Miguel Chen breaks down a basic meditation practice like this: “Sit comfortably. Open or closed, keep your eyes relaxed. Sit and breathe, noticing your breath and also noticing when you’re not noticing it. When you find yourself thinking instead of noticing, think, “thinking,” and return your attention to your breath.” Personally, counting during in and out breaths helps me to stay focused. A five minute session can be vital to conquering holiday stress.

Pets Like to Party Too

If you’ve ever been to a party with me, you’ll know that I gravitate towards pets. Pets won’t judge you. They won’t talk about your ex. They’ll never tell you that you should have been a doctor instead of finger-painting. Instead, they only want your love and attention. There is an unspoken bond between these lovable creatures and those in need of holiday sanity.

Weird Science

Really get in there. Get down on their level and love on them. There can never be enough nose-boops or puppy kisses. I have scientifically tested the mental health benefits of petting an animal. The results are staggering. 100% of the time, I walk away from the encounter 113.5% more stoked on life. Similarly, the ADAA states that 98% of pet owners consider their pets as part of the family. As well as 74% of pet owners claiming mental health improvements from pet ownership. So, get a good ear scratching in and prepare to smile.

Family Fisticuffs

Remaining calm when spending the holidays with family can be a full time enterprise. Particularly if your family holds differing view points. Politics, religion, even sports teams can destroy an otherwise perfect holiday. Too much eggnog can induce age old resentments to rear their ugly heads. While this may be true, it can be curtailed with some pre-planning.

Lead the Conversation

If taboo conversations seem to be creeping up, interject a new conversation topic to the parties involved. For example, do they know the in’s and out’s of what it takes to buy a home? (Shameless Plug – we love your referrals!!!) In the same vein, it helps to have a compatriot to help guide conversations back into the light. Recruit another level-headed family member to help set the atmosphere. Or, channel your inner Bernie and filibuster them into submission.

Peace Through Moderation

Consider proposing less alcohol-indulgent refreshments. It doesn’t have to be a teetotaling affair, but curbing some of the pours may make for better conversations. Here is a great recipe for traditional eggnog and you can adjust the rum & bourbon levels to your liking. Maybe, just maybe, Cousin Eddy won’t weird out your in-laws this year.

If All Else Fails….

This is my last piece of advice for the peace keeping section. If all else fails, put the dog’s shock collars on the offending parties. When they pipe back up, just hit that little button. There will be peace in this house at any cost!

Hack Your Brain With Gratefulness

The practice of daily gratefulness journaling can rewire your brain. It battles back against any pessimism that creeps into our daily outlooks. This same practice can be used during family holidays. Above all, the holidays should be a time to remember what we are grateful for. In contrast to all the items we hope to get for Christmas, let’s focus on what we already have.

Spread That PMA

Set aside a small amount of time before a family meal to allow everyone to share what they are grateful for. You can use the following script to start the process: “I’d like everyone to close their eyes and focus deep down on what you are grateful for. Focus on how this feels in your heart, not just in your head. How has this nourished your life? How has it built up your resilience? Is there a way to pay this forward?”

Then, allow each person to share their item of gratitude. These will differ greatly. Remind everyone that this will be an exercise without judgement. This should help them to feel secure in opening up and sharing their honest outlook. In contrast, some may not want to partake in this exercise. That’s ok. Forced gratitude wouldn’t be genuine. Hopefully hearing everyone else share will show them some of the beautiful moments in life to cherish.

The Best Present is your Presence

In conclusion, I hope that this post can help you remain calm when spending holidays with the family. Try to stay in the moment. You will only get out of the Holidays what you put into them. Keep an open mind, be patient and graceful. Remember that we are all human. We all have our own likes and dislikes. Above all, we all could use a little more compassion. Happy Holidays, Amigo! I hope this year brings you joy and fulfillment.