Learning how to control anger and manage it during the holidays can be challenging, especially right now during a pandemic.

The holidays can set up unrealistic expectations that we’re “supposed” to be filled with happiness and cheer. You may have hopes that you and your family will look like a Hallmark greeting card.

But often, the holidays fall short of that expectation. Instead, the holidays can lead to feelings of frustration and a sense of “not getting it right.”

Anger and irritation at loved ones can easily flare up, and you may find yourselves getting annoyed at each other, rather than expressing any holiday cheer.

The holidays are especially challenging right now as we manage the pandemic. There’s an increase in frustration and annoyance with your loved ones after months of being cooped up inside.

There are ways to manage these feelings, and these suggestions can help you feel more in control during this holiday season.

Here are 5 ways on how to control anger during the holidays, so you can make room for more joy and appreciation.

1. Create realistic expectations.

This year especially, it’s OK to not decorate as much as you normally do and let yourself off the hook with obligations.

Focus more on quality time connecting with family — play more board games and, perhaps, have the grandparents on Zoom while you play games with the kids.

You can start new traditions that are meaningful, such as doing one good thing a day for a family member. It can be as simple as sending them a quote or communicating an attribute that you appreciate about them.

2. Establish boundaries.

Identify what you feel comfortable with and also what you’re not OK with during the holidays and pandemic.

If your family still wants to have a big gathering and you are not comfortable with that, it’s OK to assert your needs and decline.

Getting clear about what you would like to see for yourself and your family during the holidays helps clarify boundaries.

Clearly communicating with other family members your restrictions — and also what you’re willing to do — can go a long way in creating more harmony with others.

3. Identify your triggers in specific holiday situations.

Reflect on previous holidays and see if you can find any situations that consistently set you off and caused you to lose control or lash out at a family member.

For some families, it can be something such as decorating the Christmas tree. If you’re aware of this trigger beforehand, talk about it as a family and have a plan for how things can go more smoothly this year.

Maybe fights always happen between two family members, so having them sit apart or establishing rules such as no talking politics will work wonders this holiday season.

And if one particular activity has a habit of causing conflict, decline that activity and seek to engage with family through a different activity or create a new tradition — like singing a carol or even watching a Christmas special on T.V.

4. Remember that the holidays are an emotional time.

The holidays bring up many memories, both good and bad in families. Be aware that we may be more emotional at this time than others.

Allow yourself some quiet reflection on your feelings. Try labeling what you’re feeling. Notice and accept the feeling before shifting your focus.

What’s important is that you’re not trying to change or take action with the feeling — you’re just accepting it. Oftentimes, we react and feel when we respond to upsetting emotions, but this holiday season, try to just accept and observe them.

5. Strengthen your family and togetherness through the season.

Focus on your loved ones’ strengths instead of flaws. It can be a tall order, but try to focus on what they do right.

If your spouse can be controlling, let them create the food list in advance or give them a job where they can shine.

Every day, say one positive thing that you appreciate such as “I love how organized you are and how you make sure everything is in order for our family.”

Plan weekly family nights, such as watching a movie together and discussing it afterward, playing monopoly, or even trying to play video games together.

Focusing on family members’ strengths rather than weaknesses builds positive bonds and connections, instead of creating discord.

The holidays can be especially challenging, as expectations can run high and old hurts can resurface.

Keeping these tips in mind can help minimize some of the fighting and frustrations that families can run into.