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There’s nothing like building memories at the holidays: the togetherness of family, the great food, the traditions…the friction at the dinner table. If your holiday get-togethers sometimes feel stressful, try these ideas to help you better enjoy the season.

  1. Remember that you can’t control the way others behave, but you can control how you react. Make a conscious choice to detach from slights and snubs, and refuse to allow your buttons to be pushed.
  2. Mentally rehearse new responses to predictable interactions. Commit to a different response so you will remain cool. If Aunt Flo criticizes your choice of a serving spoon for the cranberry sauce, instead of reacting with the usual anger reflex, thank her for the tip or change the narrative completely by complimenting her dress.
  3. Let go of any leftover resentments from last year’s dustup and begin with a clean slate. Instead of reviewing past episodes from a perspective of upset or frustration look at these interactions and think how you might have reacted differently and kept a cooler head.
  4. Having visitors in your home can be trying no matter how much you love them. Consider taking breaks during the visit. Plan regular “me time” to step away from the bustle and recharge.
  5. If traveling for the holidays, or an extensive gift list, jeopardizes your financial health, don’t do it. Chances are, your loved ones don’t want you to over-extend on their behalf. Consider an alternative trip to visit family when fares aren’t at holiday highs. Also, think about making manageable donations to charities that have meaning for your loved ones, as this can often generate warmer feelings and more goodwill than the giving of lavish gifts you can’t afford.

Finally, if you have a vision of your perfect holiday, use it as a guideline, not a litmus test for a successful get-together. Decide to have a positive and memorable time together and avoid measuring your success by degrees of perfection.