We all want to enjoy ourselves over the holiday season. We all wish to put up our feet, throw down an eggnog, and appreciate good food and good company. However, for many of us “good company” is easier said than done. Feel-good family films that loop on television only make things worse by constantly showing us how things “should” be; the slightly-overbearing-but-only-out-of-the-goodness-of-her-own-warm-heart mother, the slightly-rough-around-the-edges-but-devoted- father, the adorably-devious-but-well-intentioned brother. You get the picture. The truth is usually never so viewer-friendly.
Here are a couple of great ways for you to keep the peace and enjoy time with the family:
Be Understanding – Yes, this one is painfully cheesy. It’s also much easier said than done and even though it can be a great first step and it sounds cliché – a lot of people don’t make a real effort towards it. Holidays and family gatherings are naturally stressful on everybody. It is a change in your routine, the weather, different obligations, and the whole thing is wreathed in expectation. Be kind. Be gentle. Be understanding.
Try Breathing – Another maddening cliché, sure. But this one has been proven to work. When you feel yourself beginning to get agitated or irritable or stressed or overwhelmed, try this simple trick: breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, hold this breath for 7 seconds, and release for 8 seconds. Try this three times in a row. The effects are immediate. You will begin to relax and things will seem easier to tackle than before.
What’s Important? – In the hubbub of gifts and activities and traditions and food, it can be hard to keep in mind the reasons we celebrate in the first place. The holidays are a time to enjoy ourselves whether it is with families, friends, or spent alone. They were not created with the intention of forced laughter and stress-eating. So, when you feel yourself start to lose it – keep in mind that if you are with family or friends it is because you love them. Forgive them for their flaws and remind yourself why you are happy they are in your life.
Take a Break – Loving your family doesn’t mean that you want to spend every second with them. That would be insanity. Taking a break to take a walk, do a little window shopping, or taking a ride to get yourself a coffee are little ways to break up the time and let go of any tensions beginning to rise.
Ask for What You Need – part of the reason that family gatherings become so saturated in stress is because many of us have a hard time confronting family (especially extended family) about the things that hurt or upset us. It takes courage to tell your Aunt that you didn’t like what she said about your sister, but it can be freeing. It can open pathways of communication and, yes, it can in some instances create more tension, but if you do it calmly and politely and without aggression, you can at least be proud of yourself that you were honest in advocating for yourself.
Keep Out the Controversies – So, I just told you to be honest and I meant it. But being honest about what you need from your loved ones and being aggressive about controversial topics are two different things. If you know that something is sensitive – don’t bring it up just cause you can’t chit chat about the weather again. Steer clear of things you think will put someone on the spot and for goodness sakes, don’t bring up the election – no matter what the discussion is bring positivity to the table and leave the accusations behind.