Humor! The Secret to Handling Holiday Stress

2316790301_5689642dddIn yesterday's post, When Spending the Holiday with Family is Like Walking Into a Minefield, suggestion #5 reads: See the humor whenever you can.

Humor is a magical de-stressor. We get so serious and intense about our lives we often fail to lighten up. I know it's time to unplug and restore when I lose my sense of humor. For me, as I've said before, it's the canary in the mineshaft. If that goes, I can say sayonara to everything else and hello to irritability, grinding teeth and peevishness. I become the annoyed and annoying at the same time. Yuck!

Much more fun to step outside the situation, observe and not care so much. So what if Uncle Milton has to dig up that tired, old story of how cute you were when you were five and sang the Oscar Meyer jingle in the middle of Mass? Let it go and make gagging gestures where he can't see you.

Granted it becomes a lot tougher if the stories are truly heinous or hurtful. In that case, why are you anywhere near Uncle Milton? Spare yourself and make other plans if you possibly can (Suggestion #3).

In most other situations, a bit of creativity is always welcome. I especially liked this idea from the article, Food, Kin and Tension at Thanksgiving. It's genius!

Betsy said her cousin also complained of holiday meal tension with
her own family, so the two devised a strategy to help each other cope.
Each made bingo cards, but instead of numbers, the squares were filled
in with some of the negative phrases they expected to hear during the
meal, like “That outfit is interesting” or “Your children won’t sit
still.” As comments were made at the separate family celebrations, each
woman would mark her card.

“Whoever fills up a bingo row first,” Betsy said, “sneaks off to call the other and say, ‘Bingo!’ ”

You, too, could make your own Bingo cards! Fill in the squares with your personal, all time favorite oldies but goodies from the people you love. Please share yours! Some suggestions to get you going:

Are you sure you should eat that?

You should eat more!

How old are you? And you don't have a boyfriend?

How old are you? And you're not married?

How old are you? And you don't have children?

I can see by your tummy you're pregnant! No?

You really should discipline your children better.

Your cousin is making six figures. How much do you make, dear?

You still owe me for that window you broke! (thirty years ago when you were ten)

It's OK, honey, not everyone can be (fill in the blank) like your cousin.

Hey, do you remember when you were five and….

Photo courtesy candrew via Flickr


  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    Humor is definitely needed in my family. Those 20 year old stories just don’t get better over time. When someone wants the subject to change they will say “so how is the weather?”

  • Dear SD, The weather is always a safe topic and if it safely steers the conversation away from those nasty old stories go for it. If it doesn’t you might need to bring out heavier artillery like what’s good on TV or football team issues.
    I hope you had a good holiday despite family humorlessness.

  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    I only had to talk about the weather once and we did talk about football. Overall a fairly quiet day.

  • Great, I’m glad to hear it. Now have a good weekend!


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