Yep—soon it will be time for you to get: HOLIDAY SEASONAL STRESS DISORDER.

Symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Dreading being with some of your family members—and not knowing how to fend off those not so nice family comments about YOU!
  • Feeling lonely and unhappy
  • Spending too much
  • Anxiety about last minute purchase decisions
  • Eating too much
  • Pleasing disorder
  • Introducing your new intimate partner disorder
  • Blended family and divorce disorder about what to do about the children

Sound familiar? You are not alone. I remember too well too many of my family holiday experiences when those not-so-well-intentioned zingers left me feeling tongue-tied. My not-so favorites were: Do you have to live away from home? (I’d been “away” since my freshman year in college!) You know you’re the only girl not married in the family? (Yeah—duh. But I have grad school to finish. Postscript: I’ve been married for decades now to a great man!)

I wish I could offer you a tip for every one of your questions, but here are the top tested issues and tips that come from my research and workshops.


  1. Surprise them. Are you fed up with your family’s “same-old, same-old” reactions and comments to you? Use the powerful element of surprise to disarm them! Make an announcement about you that uses humor to present game-changing views of you. You could say: “Well, guys, I am no longer the “going nowhere” member of the family. I just got a new job” (or any other good news)!
  2. Ask for advice from the “Know-it-alls.” Tired of Aunt Negative Nan saying those zingers? Tell her thanks for all her advice, and ask her to give you specific things you should do about where to meet the right person—or whatever it is that your relative always says to you. When a person is on the spot, they often don’t have specific answers—and they get the message to but out.
  3. Raise the emotional warmth level. Start a Gratitude Bowl. Have everyone write on a small note card something nice to say someone. Fold it over and write the name of the person on the front. Tell them to put it in a big bowl. Help children who can’t write. You should pre-write something for each person so that everyone receives one.
  4. Plan ahead of time to change how the family views you. Start now! Send emails or mail cards to family members. Tell them good news about you. Ask about them. Thank them for something.
  5. Plan ahead of time to ease your new partner into the family. Tell your new partner and family about good things about them. Find common ground. Tell family members why your partner is good for you. Tell your partner about those hot topics to avoid.
  6. Stop the worrying-and-spending dilemma. Suggest a spending limit for gifts. Also, everyone draws a family members’ name from a bowl and buys a gift—with a set spending amount—for that person. Find out the person’s favorite store and buy a gift card—they are no longer considered “cop outs.” Who wants another stupid coffee mug?
  7. Beat the blues with a volunteer party. Are you alone or lonely for the holidays? Have a singles or alone for the holidays party! Everyone has to bring at least one other person—especially of the opposite sex—who is alone or single at holiday time. Tell each person to bring the worst gift they ever received, and have a contest for the worst one! I have actually been at this kind of party—and it is so much fun!
  8. Beat the blues again by volunteering. Invite your friends and friendlies to join you to help out at your favorite charity event. Give out toys, volunteer at a soup kitchen or any other event in your community. Volunteering boosts your endorphins, and it reduces a sense of isolation and unimportance.
  9. Make realistic emotional expectations. Don’t expect your changes to create instant approval of you! And there will always be family members who can’t be nice or mature. Your goal is to be able to say: “I took effective steps over time to change my family interactions.” The key word is “effective.” Do not use the holidays to have a “get it off your chest” confrontation. These intense talks often blow up or create short-lived good feelings.
  10. Stay in touch. Keep up the good work! Stay in touch with all family members and celebrate all things big and small. Just a quick hello email can work wonders. Your first steps are just the beginning. Changing you and other peoples’ perception of you takes time.
Author's Bio: 

Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish is a nationally recognized psychologist and licensed clinical social worker #7132, honored for her pioneering work with women’s issues in love, life, work and family. The National Association of Social Workers has included her on their list of the Fifty who has Contributed to the Profession. She is the subject of biographical entry in many Marquis’Who’sWho publications. Her latest self-help, research-based books are Smart Relationships and The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie, the cartoon companion book where you can follow a year of Cookie’s love missteps and learn about yours!