The holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving is near and Christmas is right around the corner and you need to go home and spend it with your family? Does that fill you with joy or with dread? Maybe somewhere in between or a little of both? Here are 3 tips for enjoying your holidays with family.

Set Your Expectations

First, you need to set realistic expectations. This is not going to be the most perfect holiday that you see in movies or in your imagination. Your mother isn’t going to magically stop harping about what you are wearing or pulling your shirt down to cover your butt. Or worry over your career or lamenting that you are divorced…or whatever.

No matter how old she is or you are, that will continue.

Politics also won’t change. So don’t start a conversation about it and if one is started, don’t engage…no matter how wrong-headed you think the other person is. Because I can assure you, they think the same thing about you. And this is a path that will only end in a fight.

(If you really insist on saying something, then say it as you’re walking out the door, not as you’re sitting down to eat. But even then, think twice about it because you might need to see the exact same people in another month!)

Choose Your Attitude

Don’t go to a family gathering with a sense of dread. Sure, you’ll see right-wing Roger, left-wing Lucy, cheek-pinching Christine, nit-picking Nancy. But they’re your family and you should be grateful for them. Be thankful that Christine bakes the best pies, or Nancy proudly tells everyone about your accomplishments.

Choosing your attitude is not just about going into the holiday party thinking you’ll be grateful. It’s about staying grateful in the heat of the moment. When Nancy is nit-picking at you, go ahead and give her a hug and tell her, “Thanks, Nancy. I know I can always count on you to tell me how big my butt is. I love you.”

It probably won’t make her change her ways, but it will help keep you in an attitude of gratefulness. But if you find that attitude of gratefulness being tested then take a deep breath, or walk away and go talk to another relative…preferably one that doesn’t push your buttons.

To set yourself in that positive mindset you can always listen to uplifting music before going. Meditate, practice yoga, and do mindful breathing exercises. Any one of these will help, combining them will add more tools into your toolbox for keeping your attitude in gratitude.

One of the easiest holidays I ever spent came right after I spent an evening at a Kirtan chanting with Krisna Das, Wah!, and Snatam Kaur. Talk about gratitude and bliss.

Don’t Drink Your Feelings Away

Sure, alcohol is part of most holiday gatherings. And it’s ok to drink if you don’t have a problem with it. But don’t use alcohol as a way to stuff your anger at a relative.

Far too often, alcohol is like throwing gas on a fire. Either one of two things happens: You get angry or you lose your inhibitions and inadvertently say things that inflame the situation. Both make the situation worse, not better.

If you find yourself angrily saying or thinking, “I’m going to get a drink.” Then don’t. Instead, try a breathing technique like this one.

A Bonus 4th Tip

Don’t go into a family holiday without shoring up the tools in your tool chest. I wrote this post because I saw that 25 Positive Friends and Family Affirmations was starting to trend in my top 10 most searched for posts.

This post can be used whether you’re visiting your biological family or the family that you’ve created. I hope you enjoy your holidays and remember to use these tips as needed.