Stress, shame, fear, worry, anxiety -- these are nasty emotions no person wants to experience, yet every year, as families gather over the Christmas holiday, bam! Here we go again...

If you're just tired of getting caught in the old cycle of drama -- facing your critical in-laws that question your lifestyle, or the ever-judgmental aunt Sue whose expectations you will never measure up to -- view this time of year as a great opportunity to raise your emotional awareness and learn to cope better. 

After all, relatives gathered around the dinner table to take pot shots at you won't change; it's you who needs to change to better respond (not react) to their insanity so you can keep your sanity. 

Here are five ways to take control of your emotions during those eye-rolling, cringe-worthy conversations during Christmas family gatherings.

1. Be real with your feelings.

Don't deny your feelings--they are legitimate and they don't make you weak or broken. Embrace those feelings of doom that may surface before facing the prickly relatives on Christmas day--it is what it is. Rise above it all by showing up with who you truly are--in all your imperfect glory. By being 100 percent authentic with your valies and beliefs, and responding to awkward questions and criticism with a peaceful and confident demeanor, they'll eventually back down and slowly disappear.

2. Accept that you can't control everything.

Many times, your worries during the holidays are a direct result of the fact that you're not in control of everything, especially your family members. The things that are in your control -- your own emotions and how you respond--you can manage just fine. As you prepare to face the family, take one thing at a time, practice mindfulness, be present with your feelings, and focus on what's immediately in front of you. 

3. Don't neglect taking care of you.

It's a stressful time of year but it's also a time for celebration. Why not start pursuing activities that bring you peace and joy, and that put bounce back in your step? If you have to expose yourself to the stress of interacting with people who could care less about you, balance that with taking good care of the person your spouse, children, and good friends admire the most -- you! What is it that you love to do? What are some hobbies that have been buried for years? How about that exercise routine you've been neglecting? 

4. Choose positive thinking.

If you're feeling anxious about the people in the room or the conversations evolving, simply move. Literally move -- go outside and get some fresh air. Put on your earbuds and start listening to your favorite relaxing music while going for a brisk walk. Try to take your mind away from what's bothering you. As you breathe in the crisp winter air, focus on positive thoughts that will make you feel safe, accepted, loved, and honored. 

5. Teach your brain to stop fearing.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Fear is what paralyzes you before an impending event you're dreading--like having to face that side of the family again. But after you pull it off, even though they're annoying as heck and their personalities don't mesh with yours, you realize you're not in danger and the in-laws didn't break your knee caps with a baseball bat. Thus, training your brain to accept that there's no threat (besides that veggie meat tearing up your stomach) will help you to switch off the fear response. You'll soon realize that it's the fear of fear that you fear, and nothing else. And that will eventually become easy to manage when you face the family next time .