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Grounding Techniques for Holiday Gatherings

The holidays can bring about the potential for some pretty destabilizing moments. A lot of nostalgic events and activities, combined with pressures like picking out appropriate gifts, mixed in with get-togethers among friends and family that you probably do not see often otherwise, stirred with diverse viewpoints, and you’ve got a recipe for quite the emotional cocktail. 

Even the most adept and healthy individual can become destabilized under these out of routine circumstances. Destabilization occurs when your internal sense of calm and confidence is thwarted unexpectedly. Maybe you are triggered by a family member’s offensive comment, or you become overly self-conscious after someone makes an uncomfortable joke. These situations often occur without notice and if you have ever experienced one before, chances are you have already considered the propensity of it happening again this holiday season.

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or other related conditions, the potential for destabilization within stressful social dynamics is even higher. These moments can leave us reeling and grasping for a way to regain composure or make a quick escape. It can be especially difficult to think of a solution while in the moment. But there are ways to protect yourself from total meltdown by practicing proactive ways to regain your grounding. 


Breathing is your easiest and most accessible tool for calming your body. Our breath is so automatic, we often do not realize how shallow or quick it can become. Slowing down and consciously deepening your breath re-centers your focus and provides your body with life-giving oxygen.

It takes practice to effectively use this tool. Try it while you’re lying in bed at night to relax or just before you start your day each morning, that way it is more accessible and natural to you in a time of stress. 


Water is your next most body-friendly tool. Many people underestimate the need our bodies have for staying hydrated. According to Mayo Clinic, “Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Your body depends on water to survive.”

Not only is it critical for your body’s functioning to keep your hydration at a healthy level, but just the act of refreshing your body with cool water helps to rebalance your internal state. Like breath, it is life giving and it provides an opportunity to refocus your energy. 

Give Yourself an Exit

Sometimes a stressful situation can trigger our fight, flight, or freeze response, leaving us with an urgent feeling that we need to take action right away. Bolting out of the room without a word might raise even more attention, which you are probably trying to avoid, but it is perfectly acceptable to excuse yourself for a moment from any given situation. Next time you are feeling trapped, frozen, or like you might punch someone, try excusing yourself with one of these innocuous phrases:

“Excuse me while I…

  • Make a quick phone call. 
  • Grab some water.
  • Clear my throat.
  • Use the restroom.
  • Check this message.

Most likely no one will miss a beat by your excuse, and it will give you an opportunity to collect yourself or move on to another conversation. 

Positive Mantras

Self-talk is powerful. Even the most successful business leaders and athletes will tell you they use positive words to boost their esteem and fuel their performance. If you have been destabilized, chances are you can feel the trembling of an avalanche of self-criticism coming down the mental mountain. Fend it off by repeating some positive mantras to yourself. It is helpful to think of these in times when you are not stressed, so that when the moment comes, you can pull them out of your proverbial pocket (or your actual pocket, if writing them down is helpful to you). Here are some to get you started:

  • I am free to be myself.
  • I have a right to be here.
  • I can do this.
  • I am grateful for this moment.
  • I can rise to the challenge.
  • I can handle this.
  • I am worthy of this moment.

Proactively packing your toolbox with these simple strategies can help you navigate stressful social dynamics and ensure your holidays are jolly. 

Grounding Techniques for Holiday Gatherings

Bonnie McClure

Bonnie McClure is a freelance writer based in rural, northwest Georgia. She lives here with her husband, two young sons, and cattle dog, Kudzu. An avid runner and yogi, she is devoted to improvement across all dimensions of wellness. With a background in psychology and small business management, she believes everyone is capable of life-changing growth and aspires to help others achieve their personal and professional goals. She is a member of the Georgia Writer’s Association and writes motivational posts and provides free, small business resources on her blog for her freelance writing business, WriterType.

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APA Reference
McClure, B. (2019). Grounding Techniques for Holiday Gatherings. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Dec 2019 (Originally: 19 Dec 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 28 Dec 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.