Each and every year clients come into my office complaining about mixed feelings regarding the holidays. From buying gifts for people they hardly know, to socializing with relatives that they rarely see, the holidays can be a time not only of joy, but a time of stress, anxiety and disappointment.
One of the biggest complaints I hear about is that a particular family member (who they don’t get along with) will be present. Every week leading up to the holidays (or to the day they are going to spend with that person) is filled with worry and anxiety. They begin to “practice” in their mind what they are going to say and how they are going to respond when this person interacts and/or disagrees with them, not realizing that the very act of “practicing” is increasing their own stress, as well as setting the intention for a negative outcome.
By the time that day comes and they are face to face with their “nemesis”, they are usually exhausted from exerting so much effort in their own minds “preparing for the worst” that they then turn to maladaptive coping strategies such as alcohol in order to “get them through the day”.
Below are 10 tips to help you to not only survive, but to thrive during the holiday festivities.
1. About 2 weeks prior to attending your holiday events, write out your intention of how you would like those days to go. Be as specific as you can. For example you can say something like, “It is my intention to have a fantastic holiday dinner at Aunt Jean’s and to be harmonious with each and every person there”.
2. Read your intention aloud or to yourself each and every day.
3. Prepare yourself to take the high road. Just because someone is argumentative or confrontational with you doesn’t mean you need to be with them. Be the bigger person in any challenging situation.
4. Understand and really come to terms with the fact that you can’t change anyone, nor do you have any control over their actions/behavior. The one and only thing you do actually have control over is how you respond to someone or a particular situation.
5. Get out of an ego state of mind. Understand before you go that you don’t need to “convince” anyone of your stance, beliefs or opinions. It’s ok for family members to disagree or to challenge the way you are living your life or what you believe in. However, don’t give in to your ego which often makes us feel as if we need fight the good fight and every battle to the end (in order to feel gratified). Feel gratification in knowing that you are strong enough to have your own opinions and stick to them.
6. On the day of, mind your alcohol. Alcohol always exacerbates emotions and many come in to me stating that they wish they had not said certain things while under the influence.
7. If you are not enjoying the conversation with someone then politely excuse yourself and engage with someone else (or go help out in the kitchen!).
8. Take what others say with a grain of salt. Often, relatives who you have not seen all years seem to suddenly have the lifesaving answer to the problems that have been plaguing you all year. Thank them politely for their advice and move on.
9. Do something nice for someone. It will make you feel good about yourself too! Surprise the host with a gift they will really appreciate or donate to a charity in their name.
10. Take a few moments throughout the day for appreciation. Appreciation of the food, you are eating, the home you are in and the people that you do enjoy.
Most of all remember that by being mindful of your reactions and emotions, you can set the tone for what could be a wonderful holiday season you will never forget!