One very good way of dealing with a predictably stressful situation is to prepare beforehand to respond differently than you normally do.
In an article in the New York Times about how to handle holiday family stress, the author gives this example:
Dr. Bulik told the story of a patient whose mother scolded her for not eating her homemade cookies. “You don’t like my cookies?” she asked. As a result, the daughter relented and took a cookie. But when she then reached for a second, her mother scolded her again. “Do you really think you need another one?” she asked her.
It's the kind of stuff that drives you crazy at the holidays, right? But at the end of the article, there is a good example of doing something about it, preparing ahead of time:
Betsy, a high school teacher in Boston, said she had longstanding issues with her mother-in-law, some of which began after she underwent a Caesarean section. After the delivery, her mother-in-law, a slim woman, brought her only light lunches of lettuce salad, even though she was famished after nursing her baby.
Betsy said her cousin also complained of holiday meal tension with her own family, so the two devised a strategy to help each other cope. Each made bingo cards, but instead of numbers, the squares were filled in with some of the negative phrases they expected to hear during the meal, like “That outfit is interesting” or “Your children won’t sit still.” As comments were made at the separate family celebrations, each woman would mark her card.
“Whoever fills up a bingo row first,” Betsy said, “sneaks off to call the other and say, ‘Bingo!’”
If you normally find it stressful to hang out with certain members of your family, try something new.
Read more about how to come up with new responses: Everyday Creativity