Reducing Stress at Family Gatherings

Stress family gatherings AdobeStock_71896528 copyAre you feeling stress just thinking about the different parties coming up for the holidays?

Yes! It’s that time of the year when many families and friends are looking at gathering together for the holidays. There’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and such. Maybe there’s a birthday thrown in here and there. And even though we would love to find “peace on earth” when we get together with each other, unfortunately, it isn’t always that way. Many times, a lot of stress and pressure also sneaks into your gatherings.

As a result, you can find yourself in a war of words and actions. People get offended; and then hurt feelings are carried around for the holidays instead of good will. It’s the “gift” that keeps giving. But it isn’t a positive one.

So, to help you reduce this stress, we’ll share tips from some “experts” that you may be able to use. We believe these are wise tips; and many of them have worked for us.

We’re giving these to you a bit early so you can better pre-plan your holiday gatherings. Pray, talk together, and see what you think. Glean what will work for you and disregard the rest.



“Simplify your lifestyle.”

That’s a hard one! But it has helped us SO much when we simplified our holiday celebrations. Simpler has been better! There’s much less stress for everyone.

“One of the leading causes of stress is that we try to cram too much into these days. Instead of watching your calendar fill up, go ahead now and block out personal time, couple times, and family times. Then when that really nice invitation comes along, have the courage to say, ‘I’m so sorry we have a conflict.’ It is far easier to set boundaries before the commitments start to pile up.” (Susan Yates, from the article, “Three Ways to Relieve Stress Before the Holidays Arrive“)


“Whatever schedule you encounter, let them remind you to be grateful for the gift of time. Choose to focus on the people you are able to celebrate with; and use your time with them well. …Let go of the stress you felt figuring out your plans and decide to be content with what you’re doing this holiday. [See Philippians 4:11.] And ask God to surprise you with moments of joy as you let go of your own agenda and live in the present moment.” (Whitney Von Lake Hopler, from the article “Don’t Invite Your Expectations to Thanksgiving“)

Do you feel stress as you anticipate being with family?

Then talk about this ahead of time with your spouse.

“If you are going to be spending a lot of time with family, be intentional. Make sure you build in breaks for the family. The holidays can be a special time for families to be together, but you don’t need to overdose.” (John Thurman, from article “Holiday Reduction Stress Tips“)

That’s a great point! We can overdo it with food all that surrounds it. But we can also overdose on being with others more than we should. So, set some time aside to have quiet time together. In addition, make sure you spend quiet time together with the Lord. He would want your holidays to be peaceful. Jesus in the Prince of Peace; so, it is only natural that He can help you to destress the time you spend together with family.

And surely:

“No matter what embarrasses you, let it help you appreciate God’s grace more. Remember the many times you’ve messed up in life, only to have God keep loving you and forgiving you when you turn to let Him. Let your gratitude for God’s grace motivate you to forgive others who do or say something embarrassing. Know that your forgiveness will show them Christ’s love in action. It may possibly move lost family members closer to a relationship with Him.” (Whitney Von Lake Hopler, from the article “Don’t Invite Your Expectations to Thanksgiving“)

Don’t add to your stress.

This is a great tip! And it’s so true!

“Regardless of what your therapist says, the Christmas season is not about problem solving. Deal with family issues another time. You have to choose how you are going to feel. You do not have to be a slave to old memories.” [See: 2 Corinthians 10:5-6] (John Thurman, from article “Twenty Holiday Stress Busters“)

Want less stress? And do you want to cause less stress for others?

“Think before you speak. Make a list of ‘topics to avoid.’ …Topics that are almost always safe: the weather, sports, gardening and the other person’s life. God gave us two ears and one mouth. Use your words to help others feel about themselves.” [See: Hebrews 3:13 and Hebrews 10:24-25] (John Thurman, from article “Twenty Holiday Stress Busters“)

You can do a whole Bible study on that topic of being careful with your words. (Actually, that would be a good idea. It would sure help you to be more cautious.) Too often we talk before we think of the damage our words can cause. And that causes problems for everyone.

And then to lower your stress:

We love, love, love this one:

“Learn the Power of Pause. No matter how well you plan ahead, assume a positive attitude and acquire a sensible perspective. Anything can go awry. Learning to take a few deep breaths in the midst of a debacle opens a world of opportunities for you to grow and, in the process, teach others —especially children —invaluable lessons. Instead of becoming reactive and hastily assuming the worst when problems arise, simply pause. Creating a pause unlocks your creativity.” [See: 2 Timothy 2:23] (Hal Runkel, from the article “Practical Advice for a Scream Free Thanksgiving“)


“For stepfamilies — Gather on neutral ground. Meet at a place that belongs to no one —include everyone that you can and avoid posturing and fighting.” [See: Romans 14:19] (John Thurman, from article “Twenty Holiday Stress Busters“)

In addition, we’d also like to share with you a very condensed portion of a powerful article titled, Holiday Family Gathering Coming Up? Let the Beatitudes Quell Your Attitudes, written by John Shore. (We recommend you read in its entirety through the web site link provided above.) In this article, John points out that Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:3-12 some important principles that we can use to “be a blessing to ourselves and our families when we meet with them over the holidays.”

As you lean in to bless others, remember:


“We tend to go into family gatherings pretty keyed up. There is a tendency to feel intense, alert, super-sensitive to everything everybody says and does. And then when we hear, ‘You’re here!’ our senses kick fully on. But that’s exactly the opposite of being ‘poor in spirit’; that’s being TOO rich in spirit. At its core that’s all about ego. Before stepping into your family gathering, take a minute; take a breath, and fill yourself with the Holy Spirit. If there’s one thing Jesus showed us, it’s that it’s ALL about wanting and keeping nothing for yourself.


“Don’t fight. Don’t provoke. …And don’t insist that your thoughts and opinions are given their full weight. Let every last bit of that go. Allow others to go before you. And let others have the floor. …If Jesus can sacrifice his life in order for you to be reconciled with God, you can surely sacrifice a bit of yourself in order to promote harmony within your family.”



“There’s no mystery here. Forgive, forgive, and forgive till it hurts. Why shouldn’t you? You’re no angel. None of us is. We’ve all done more wrong things than there are numbers to count them… When it comes to our proper relationship to our family members, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do,’ should be tattooed on our hearts.


“Don’t let the negative stay with you. When you see something that’s nasty or snarky or interested only in itself heading your way, step aside; and let it roll right past. Wave to it as it goes by. And then turn your attention back to the Holy Spirit within you. That is God —who, the Bible tells us, is LOVE.”

Lastly, as you look to ease the stress in your life remember:


Show that the peace of the Lord is upon you by becoming the means by which others find peace between themselves… Let go of the wrong that tries to claim you as its own. Make peace.”

That’s good advice for us all, no matter what time of the year it is.

“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Cindy and Steve Wright


To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:

7 Essentials - Marriage book


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