Visiting family during the holidays can be less stressful
by Janet Janssen
Dec 06, 2012 | 1470 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Just in case visiting family during the holidays feels more like going to the dentist than “Joy to the World,” let me tell you how I handled this reality in my own life.

I decided to volunteer.

Let’s face it, not every family visit is functional. Why not take some of that time to feed the hungry or join a local nonprofit group that helps others during the holidays?

Volunteering my services during Christmas limited the amount of face-to-face time I spent with my family.

As controlling as my mother could be, she understood the importance of helping others less fortunate than we were.

I had a higher purpose, and our time together involved less friction — simply, I think, because we didn’t subject ourselves to overexposure.

My epiphany came a few years later.

After volunteering with feed-the-needy programs and Christmas caroling, I realized I had a higher level of patience and tolerance for others than I did for my immediate family. I had adopted an attitude of “being of service.”

If I could be of service to strangers, I wondered, could I not adapt the same principle to my own family?

So I decided to change my attitude. Before I visited my family, I would make up my mind to treat them as I was treating those strangers I had volunteered to help.  I would be of service to my family — especially Mom.

I remember my very first visit with this new insight. I always brought treats that I knew Mom and the family would appreciate and decided I would see how I could help them.

I must say, things between us shifted.

I was no longer looking for the friction between us; I was just present and in the moment.  I began to see her like those strangers I volunteered for. They were just people, in need of unconditional love.

I won’t lie and tell you all my family problems were solved. But I can tell you that being of service to your loved ones creates a powerful shift.

Please note that if your family system is clearly harmful to your spirit or physical well-being, I am not suggesting that you put yourself into harm’s way. I am speaking to those of us who know deep down inside that having a new perspective on our families could make a difference.

Personally, I found that I stressed less before I left the house to visit them, during our visit and afterward, too. Give it a try and you will know what I mean.

- Janet Janssen lives in Felton and is a life coach and certified hypnotherapist. She offers free webinars and workshops about stress release and mind clutter for individuals and small businesses. She can be reached at 335-0553 or

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