Surviving your stressful family holidays

christmas-holiday-stressDo you dread the holidays and all the pressure?  Do you get a little tightening in your gut or throat, or maybe your heart beats a little faster at the thought of spending Christmas or the holidays with your family?

Here are some tips to help you survive and maybe even relax into the holiday spirit a bit more.

  1. Don’t make value judgments – accept yourself and others just as you are.   It feels liberating!   After all, we are just doing the best we can with what we know.  Unspoken thoughts can be just as damaging as thoughts spoken out loud.  So, when a judgment pops into your mind, notice it, and choose a ‘corrective’ thought.  For example, if you have a thought that your brother is selfish, correct that thought with another, kinder thought.  It could be something like, “sometimes he doesn’t seem to notice the impact he has on others.”  When you stop judging others you will feel better, and they will feel better.  Also, you cannot expect others to stop judging you if you are judging them.
  2. Accept that everything we do (and say) is a strategy to find relief from discomfort – No matter how critical others are, or how demanding, or difficult in any way, know that all of this is somehow a way for them to find relief from their discomfort – caused by perhaps fear, challenges, stress, anxiety, illness, etc. that result from unresolved life experiences.  We all have them.
  3. Don’t take it personally – If you feel you are the ‘target’ or that others are fussing over you and limiting your space and choices for example, know that they are acting on their beliefs and how they ‘do’ their world.  In fact it has very little to do with you.
  4. Drop all expectations except for one – Remember that everyone is dealing with their ‘stuff’ in whatever way they know how.  Because you are not them, you can’t know what is best for them or how they should respond to any situation.  Therefore don’t expect them to act in any particular way.  You can however expect that they might not reciprocate.  They still may have expectations of you!  (That is okay – refer to points 1-3!)  When you let go of expectations you’ll be more likely to maintain your balance.
  5. Look for what is working or what is pleasant, especially the small stuff –  For example, notice the decorations on the table, or the colourful shoes your auntie is wearing and how she is enjoying them, or the efforts others have made to come to the gathering (such as long travel, or getting a dog-sitter, or juggling other commitments).  Make this a habit, and see if you can train yourself to notice what is working.  You will literally feel better and others with feel better just being around you.
  6. Be kind and patient – Look for ways to be kind.  No matter how others behave, or what they say, or how they treat you, remember they are seeking relief from their discomfort. When you are kind, you are giving them some relief.  With relief, they have more capacity to be kind in return.  It might take a little while for them to register your kindness, so be patient.  Everyone wins!
  7. Be of service – Offer to help clear the table or wash the dishes, or play with the children.  There are many benefits when you are ‘serving others.’  Firstly it is a distraction for you and gets you out of the ‘line of fire.’  Secondly, you are putting kindness into action and others will appreciate that.  Thirdly, and most importantly, you feel better about you.  In some, maybe small way, you made a difference to another person.
  8. Practice self care – If you start feeling uncomfortable or anxious or unsafe, take an appropriate and considerate action to bring relief.  For example take a short walk – even if it is only to the toilet and on the way, notice what is working or pleasant (maybe the cushions on the sofa match the painting on the wall, or you notice the leaves on the trees outside dancing in the sunlight, or the scented soap in the bathroom…)  Treat yourself the same way you aim to treat others – be kind, patient, non-judgmental, helpful, and look for what’s working.

If you can’t possibly practice all these tips, just pick one, or two.  Even just one will make a difference.  Here is a summary of the survival tips.

holiday-survival-tips-0You can download this checklist and keep it as a handy reminder: holiday-survival-tips

From all of us at SEhorse, we wish you a peaceful, safe, and joy-filled Christmas and holidays.