Visiting the extended family for the holidays? Here's how to keep your sanity in the face of all that good cheer.
Step 1: Decide on the length of your visit and share this information with everyone immediately so there are no hurt feelings or misunderstandings. If you're staying for a shorter time than your family wants (and you will) blame it on work or your travel arrangements.
TIP: Make travel plans well in advance so you're not stuck with six connecting flights, and consider booking a room in a nearby hotel so you have a nightly escape route.
Step 2: Sure, you'll get presents, but they'll probably things you might have wanted back in fourth grade. Grin and bear them, graciously. And provide gift receipts with all the presents you give—maybe next year your family will get the hint and return the favor.
Step 3: Nothing will make the family cook happier than seeing you enjoy their food, so take two or three very small helpings of everything, which will give the impression you're eating more than you actually are.
TIP: If you’re worried about gaining weight, insist on going for a walk or jog—it’ll have the added bonus of getting you out of the house!
Step 4: Have a drink to settle your nerves, but watch out—the more you indulge, the more likely you are to overeat, wake up with a hangover, or blurt out what you think of your sister's parenting skills.
Step 5: Bite your tongue. Don't let a thoughtless remark by Aunt Tillie ruin your day, or decide that Christmas Eve is the perfect time to have it out with your obnoxious cousin Ezra.
Step 6: Prepare in advance for irksome questions. For example, if Grandma Edith always asks why "a beautiful girl like you is still single," plan to reply, "I'm holding out for Mr. Wrong." You'll be less stressed knowing you can shut the meddlers down with a witty retort.
Step 7: Create a diversion. If the attention shifts to you or is heading down a familiar path that always leads to a fight, take the opportunity to reveal a juicy bit of gossip about another branch of the family that you've saved just for this occasion.
Step 8: Take your expectations down a few notches, and be appreciative for the effort your family made toward the holidays, even if they weren't successful. No family is perfect. Instead of trying to change yours, enjoy them as they are.
FACT: Christmas has been ranked sixth on the scale of most stressful life events, following things like divorce, moving, and changing jobs.