So how is it possible to not only survive the holidays this year with your family, but enjoy them? Dr. Fried emphasized that different strategies like daily mindfulness and meditation techniques may provide relief for some, while for others, self-talk strategies, exercise or pharmacological interventions may be most effective.
Specifically, he suggested thoughtful planning well before the family gathering, including establishing rules — that you may or may not communicate to your family — of how you will handle potentially anxiety-provoking interactions. It may also help to inform your family that certain topics are absolutely “off-limits” for discussion throughout the trip (see: picks for the incoming cabinet positions, your lack of a spouse and children, whether or not there should be sour cream in mashed potatoes).
Of course, all the thoughtful planning in the world will not always cut it.
“Often it’s easiest just to fall into the same patterns of interacting with family, even if these are emotionally destructive,” Dr. Fried said. “Indeed, the hardest part can be establishing — and sticking to — new responses and behaviors.”
And like traditional jet lag, family jet lag can also have a big impact on your sleep, said Dr. Dion Metzger, a psychiatrist and sleep expert based in Atlanta.
“During holiday travel, it is so easy to start sacrificing hours of sleep to get that last-minute packing in, rise before the sun for that 6 a.m. flight or even just to have a late night catching up with loved ones,” Dr. Metzger explained. “Those lost hours of sleep will have our bodies (and minds) running on fumes before dinnertime.”
Disrupted sleep patterns also make us prone to reduce normal activity levels and gain weight, according to Dr. Richard Rose, chief executive of Sommetrics, a company focused on sleep quality.