Too Much Family Time This Holiday? Here's How to Cope

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 20, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Too much time with relatives during the holidays can lead to what one psychotherapist calls "family burnout."

"I would describe family burnout as the feeling of not having satisfactory interactions with family members," said clinical psychologist Karen Lawson, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

"If someone is truly experiencing family burnout, then sometimes it is important to let some time elapse before another outing or before another event with family members that bring out those feelings in us," she said in a college news release.

However, there are ways to prevent this from happening, she noted.

For starters, plan ahead by thinking about what you want the holidays to be like, Lawson suggested. Consider the kinds of activities that are best done in small groups and those that are best in large groups.

Think, too, about past problems. Then, she advised, avoid situations and topics this holiday season that are likely to create stress. For example, if someone in your family triggers stress, try to avoid that person.

Lawson pointed out that it's also important to look after yourself. Don't overeat or drink too much alcohol, and be sure to get enough sleep.

Have realistic expectations, too. Be honest with yourself about what your family is like, what your budget is and how much time you have.

If you need space from your family, try to let them know in a way that won't cause hurt feelings.

"It's important to acknowledge how you are feeling and to not feel like you are being forced to continue to be in a situation when you are not enjoying it," Lawson said. "It is perfectly acceptable to say to the host that you need to leave for a little while, but that you'll be back for dinner." A short walk can be a good way to get a brief break.

"If you don't want to leave, you can ask if there is something you can help with so you'll be occupied," she suggested.

"Overall, the holidays can't be looked at as a grand maneuver of avoiding stress," Lawson said. "Instead, the holidays should be a time we look forward to, especially with relatives whom we may not often get to see."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers holiday health and safety tips ( ).

SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, December 2017