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3 Reliable Ways to Reduce Stress and Guilt at Family Celebrations

By Jane Thurnell-Read December 04, 2022 Family

Holidays are supposed to be a great time of happiness, love and good cheer, but often, it isn’t like that at all. It’s just stress, stress, stress.

It’s also guilt, guilt, guilt, as we feel we should love our family unconditionally. We should enjoy being with them, especially when we are celebrating together as a family. But we don’t. At least we don’t enjoy it some (or most) of the time.

I’ve put together some practical suggestions to help you deal with the stress and enjoy yourself more.

Reduce Your Expectations

The first thing you can do when the Holidays come knocking, is to realise that none of the people coming to the event are perfect. You’re not perfect either. It may be holiday time, but that doesn’t suddenly transform everyone into perfect people.

This holiday time is unlikely to make unhappy relationships any better.

Just because it’s a family celebration doesn’t mean people don’t feel as fed up, irritable, depressed, tired and unhappy as they might any other day.

People who hated the last family gathering will probably struggle this time too. However, it is possible for everyone to survive – and enjoy themselves – even if the meals and the gifts aren’t perfect.

You will probably survive too, even if you can’t get into the size-smaller dress you rashly bought for this event.

You may not have a perfect gathering this time, but couldn’t you (and everyone else) be happy if it was just good enough?

Reducing your expectations is really effective. It doesn’t mean you have to expect the worse, just don’t expect everything to be perfect.

There are other things you can do too.

Do the Maths

The immediate future can feel overwhelming, as you stare bleakly at the days unrolling ahead. How are you going to be polite to the son-in-law you don’t like? What to do about the grandchildren who make so much noise?

Should you say something to your daughter who sleeps in late, misses family meals and drinks too much? Can you really grit your teeth again as your frail mother wants only to talk about her ailments and what’s wrong with the world?

If you find yourself in this and similar situations, do the maths. If maths isn’t your strong point, don’t get stressed about that too! Here’s an example to get you started:

Let’s assume you are going to live till you are 80. Your life has 29,200 days.

So, if this family gathering lasts 3 days, that’s 3 divided by 29,200. Which means, it will take about 0.01% of your remaining life.

If it’s going to last for 7 days, that’s 0.02% of your life.

It’s a small amount, even if you are together for 7 days. This is your ongoing thought for the time: “It’s only 0.02% of my life. I can be reasonably polite and friendly for that amount of time.”

Take Some Flower Remedies

Bach flower remedies are wonderful natural remedies based on flowers. They were developed by Dr. Edward Bach, who used flowers to produce remedies to help various stressful states. You can buy them in health stores, online and in some pharmacies.

If you buy them from a health store, you may well be able to get advice on which one would be best for you, but let me offer some suggestions for ones that might be appropriate for family celebrations.


Try Agrimony if you are always the life and soul of the party, even when you feel miserable inside. Agrimony is a good choice for you if you love peace and get really upset by family arguments.


Choose Aspen if you have a sense of foreboding that something awful is going to happen at the event, but you can’t put into words what that would be.


Chicory will be right for you if you are always fussing over other people. You want to find everything that is wrong and put it right, but others get irritated by your fussing.


Take Heather if you want to talk about yourself and have people fuss over you. You hate being alone. You sometimes talk so much you drive other people away.


Choose Holly if you experience strong negative emotions, such as anger and jealousy.


Honeysuckle is the one if you keep thinking about past, happier celebrations.


Impatiens works well if you easily become impatient.


Choose Scleranthus if you dither over what to buy for whom or can’t make up your mind what food to cook and serve.

Rescue Remedy

Rescue Remedy is a blend of five of the single remedies. It is the first-aid remedy. Great to have on hand if someone has a fall, gets upset or for any other minor emergency.

The easiest way to take them is to have a glass of water and add two drops of your chosen remedy. Sip it throughout the day, making up another glass as and when you need it. You can also just take them direct on to your tongue.

The remedies are preserved in brandy. If you are avoiding alcohol, put them on your temples instead. The remedies are safe for even very small children.

You can take more than one remedy at the same time. If you take a remedy that is not right for you, it won’t have a bad effect. So, choose with confidence. There are 38 different remedies, plus Rescue Remedy, so you are bound to find one that is right for you.

Family get-togethers can be a source of love, warmth and wonderful memories. I hope these suggestions will work for you, just as they have for me.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How do you feel when holiday family gatherings approach? How do you battle stress and guilt? What do you do to ward off the negativity? Please share in the comments below.

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Great article. Puts it all in perspective. Love the Bach flower advice.


This is such a thoughtful and helpful article! I had amazing Christmas Holidays until I married. Then followed forty plus years of two families feuding and heavy drinking at every gathering of my husband’s large and loud family. Plus we were expected to travel thousands of miles no matter our schedule or financial issues or our children’s needs. And we did.

We managed to good holidays with our children and friends but the extended family just got worse. Then our sons married and another set of conflicts began. I do always focus on the children and plan the meals carefully. Since my husband’s massive heart attack and pulmonary embolisms, air travel is dangerous so again, more conflicts!

I receive great joy in being close with the nieces and nephews on both sides and know it was worth it!

The Author

Jane Thurnell-Read is an indie author and blogger, writing about health, well-being and weight loss. Her latest book 190 Weight Loss Hacks: What The Evidence Says is available from Amazon as an eBook and a paperback. Her website is and you can follow her on Instagram @thrivingjane.

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