Oh, my!  Quite the holiday meltdown.  Imagine yourself on the other side of the camera.  Are you laughing so hard you're crying?  Making a mental note to refill your Xanax prescription?  Or melting down, too?

If you are wishing for a tantrum-free holiday season, please read on. FYI, this is not a post about reducing holiday stress through better self-care.  If you're looking for self-care refreshers, see previous post:  Self-care in a Toxic World.


As we all know, adults tantrum, too.  Fortunately, it is never too late to grow yourself up!

Three keys to tantrum-free living

1.  Manage expectations.

Managing expectations of others is key to year-'round tantrum-free living. Start by practicing on your Santaland outing.  It is reasonable, of course, to wish for cheerful toddlers.  It's reasonable to think your partner will share in the moment.  It's reasonable to expect civility among strangers.

Unless it's clearly time to summon mall security, spare yourself disappointment, rage, and every negative emotion in-between by repeating the following:  My expectations may be reasonable but, apparently, they are unrealistic.   Whatever reality hands you, don't tantrum!  Adjust your expectations.  

2.  Behave constructively.

When you feel threatened, it is human nature to react destructively, Cranky toddlers threaten your image of a perfect visit to Santaland.  Your missing-in-action spouse threatens your image of a responsible partner. All those pushy holiday shoppers threaten your peace of mind.  Your first impulse may be to yell, curse, make demands, or seek revenge.  

Turning away from destructive impulses is simple:

  • Choose to behave constructively.  If you're one of the many who are tantrumming inwardly though not outwardly, know this:  You are half-way there.  As they say in 12-step programs, "Fake it 'til you make it."  
  • Don't let conventional thinkers convince you that, by not showing negative emotions, you are being inauthentic or doing yourself harm.  To the contrary, you are doing everyone, yourself included, a big favor by keeping your negative emotions to yourself.  See previous post:  Runnin' With Your Hair Blowin' Back

Regardless of how others behave, don't tantrum, choose to behave constructively.

3.  Inhibit negative emotions.

So, okay.  You've faced reality and chosen to behave constructively, but you still feel like tantrumming.  What's to be done?

Fortunately, adult human brains are wired to inhibit negative emotions. Although first reactions may always be defensive and destructive, a rational second reaction is also possible.  Whether you call it self-control, delay of gratification, or emotional maturity, utilization of the capacity to inhibit negative emotions requires the following:

  • Conscious decision to be rational.  For example, find the humor.
  • Calming of fight-or-flight arousal.  For example, take several deep breaths.
  • Practice, parctice, practice. 

For details, see previous post:  Whew!  That's a Stick Not a Snake!

Happy holidays!





About the Author

Christine Meinecke, Ph.D.

Christine Meinecke, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and author of Everybody Marries the Wrong Person.

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