Leave the politics at the door
This seems like a no brainer, but if your family’s split down the middle on politics, it’s probably in everybody’s best interest to avoid discussing the latest global happenings. We know how difficult that can be—it’s been a crazy year—but is it really worth alienating Aunt Marsha? Well, okay, maybe you’ve already alienated Aunt Marsha. Is it worth getting into a fist fight with Aunt Marsha across the dinner table?
Try not to take things personally
It’s not the easiest thing to do, we know. But when your brother or uncle or whoever starts pointing a finger at you and trying to call out your mistakes or the things that the two of you disagree on, the easiest thing is to smile, change the subject, and avoid taking it to heart.
Normal people don’t spend their time tearing others down. Once you recognize that the person antagonizing you is the one that has a problem—and, what’s more, is probably projecting their own insecurities and self-loathing onto you—the easier it will be to let their toxic behavior go in one ear and out the other.
Consider a stress ball
That is to say, any item that you can touch, squeeze or hold to cool yourself down. Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up the security blanket. If you’ve got a trinket that dear friend or family member gave to you, consider carrying it in your pocket—or wearing it on your person, if applicable—and giving it a squeeze when you find yourself ready to pop over a disagreement at the dinner table. If you don’t have a good totem, consider purchasing a stress ball or a fidgeting device to reduce your anxiety.
Work out interpersonal interactions beforehand
You’ve probably known your family for a long time. Maybe even your entire life! You know who pushes what buttons and how. A little planning before the event can go a long way. If you consider what your cousin or sister might say to upset you and make a plan about how to respond beforehand, you might find yourself considerably more relaxed on the big day.
Be a realist
Or, don’t set yourself up to be disappointed. Uncle Joe is probably always going to be a jerk. Aunt Katherine is never going to approve of anything you do. Don’t waste time hoping that other people will change—instead, practice coping mechanisms for dealing with the people that you can’t change, and love yourself no matter how other people treat you.
Give yourself time to get back in the saddle
After everything is said and done, don’t expect to get right back into your day-to-day without some trouble. Just because you can mitigate the damage doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and if you need a little R&R after a family event, that’s completely understandable. Treat yourself to some alone time—or, better yet, some one-on-one time with the people in your life that you actually like.