As much as the holiday season is full of fun and food, it invariably also involves people dynamics. This is great when we want to look like a picture perfect Hallmark greeting card of a family, but we all know this is simply not true. Below the surface of the grins, laughter and greetings of, “Look how you’ve grown!” there is often an undercurrent of stress, anxiety and misunderstanding. This is not to say we don’t love one another- we do. But whenever a group of people come together who are tightly bonded, conflict tends to surface because we are in a pressure cooker of a social situation. This knowledge alone is enough to make many of us dread festivities.
So, how do we handle stress over the holiday season and still enjoy the company of our loved ones? Here are 5 tips that can make it easier for you this December:
1. Be prepared
If you are anxious about holiday preparation, gift shopping or seeing family, pre plan how you will go about these activities. If the stress of holiday shopping is traumatic for you, arrange for a friend to go with you and go earlier in the season to save yourself from the Christmas rush. In the same way, plan how and when you will decorate, prepare Christmas dinner and schedule in how long you will see Great Aunt Susie.
2. Don’t make assumptions
Granted, it is hard not to pre-empt what other family members will think, do or say during the holidays, but if they have not vocalised a concern to you themselves, try not to assume their behaviour is an attack or criticism of you. You’ll find festivities a lot more enjoyable when you take people at their word rather than questioning the intent behind their questions and statements.
3. Don’t create conflict
It sounds strange, but often when we feel stressed and out of place we can make sarcastic remarks, begin topical conversations and try and bait our relatives. There is certainly a healthy and humorous side to this, bit when this sarcasm is creating conflict and propelling the tension in the room, it is smart to hold back. Just because you are aware of a conflict no one is talking about, doesn’t mean you need to bring it up on Christmas Day.
4. Deal with conflict
The amount of relationship issues and differences of opinion that arise over the holiday season can be astronomical. While we don’t want to create conflict by stirring the pot and bringing these out to the open, it is still important we actually deal with these issues. If you feel able to, meet with your family member one on one and discuss your concerns in an honest and loving way before Christmas Day. If you realise that this is useless and could in fact create more tension in your family, then perhaps you need to look at how you respond to that family member in order to keep conflict at bay and to protect yourself.
5. Believe for the best
Instead of dreading holiday festivities, come with a positive mindset that things are going to work out. Speak positive affirmations to yourself like, “I am capable of doing this,” “I have control of this situation,” or “This moment will pass.” Share your concerns with your partner or a family member you are close to. Ultimately, remember that this is only a few weeks in the year and it will pass.