1. Schedule a massage, manicure, or time to sit and read more than you normally would. You are going to need it! This is an investment in your mental health.
2. It is important to have a plan of how long you will stay at a particular engagement (i.e. an exit strategy). Be proactive about telling your family your plans ahead of time, this way everyone is on the same page and it minimizes expectations on both parts, and therefore minimize stress. Additionally, by emailing out your plans or sending a text, you are establishing boundaries and minimizing any face-to-face interaction.
3. It can be helpful to have some topics of conversation as a "go to" for the confrontational family member or friend. This can also be helpful for just plain, awkward moments. There are plenty of conversation starter apps you can download onto your phone that would be worth investing in. Danielle LaPorte is a wonderful author and she has an app designed to encourage meaningful conversations. I also recommend "Hypotheticals,” "What If" and "Conversation Shaker" which are popular on iPhone. Too, just scrolling through current events on your phone and reading headlines can be helpful.
4. During a gathering, look for others that might be sitting by themselves. Chances are they feel similar to you and would make a great bonding partner in the midst of all the fanfare.
5. The colder months make outdoor events less common and less crowded. Pack a nice coat so you can get some fresh air, if this is an option.
6. Avoid crowds and shop online as much as you can!