Self-Care and the Holidays

By Vanessa Kensing, LMSW

Recently I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, and the hosts retold an exchange from the 90’s sitcom Mad About You. One character says to the other, “Why is my family so good at pushing my buttons?” The other responds, “Because they were the ones that installed them!” For many of us holidays can be a great time to relax from work and spend time with family. However, the longer we spend with them, the more we fall into old patterns of interacting and buttons get pushed!

We can learn a lot in therapy about family dynamics and the role of our early childhood experiences, but with Thanksgiving coming up, here are some quick tips to manage the holidays without transforming into your former teenage self:

  • Plan ahead! Don’t agree to a whole week with family if you know you can only manage a few days. Also, sandwich your travel with time for yourself.

  • Alone time. Holidays may mean you don’t have your own room, are sharing a room, or the house is just generally overpopulated. So find time some time each day to be alone. Offer to run an errand or go get a cup of coffee. The alone time with help with perspective and patience.

  • Be Mindful. Perhaps there are some stressful topics for you or your family. If you find yourself discussing any of them, know when to end the conversation peacefully.

  • Have an ally. Before going away discuss a code or gesture with someone in your family, maybe a sibling or a partner.There will be times when your button is pushed and you’ll need help deactivating and removing yourself from the situation.

  • Focus on the good. It’s easy for our thinking to take a negative turn. Make a commitment to focus on what is good and going right, not the opposite.

Vanessa Kensing is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you want help preparing for the holidays or would like to explore your family dynamics , visit to see how therapy can help.