Holidays are NOT a HAPPY
time for everyone.
For some, the thought of potential conflict, criticism, and even uncomfortable topics can turn planning for holiday gatherings into a source of dread, rather than joy.
This year, instead of going in with your guard up, consider these 4 tactics to make it through the holidays peacefully:
1. Recognize your own needs and limitations
While it may be counter to our nature, it’s not our job to make everyone else happy during the holidays. And trying to do so can leave you feeling burned out and unhappy. This is even more true when family members are difficult to be around. Before the gatherings begin, take a step back and think about what you need and want this holiday season—and, more important, what you don’t want.
2. Plan and practice responses for potential conflicts ahead of time.
If your family is keen on having the same fight each year, or if you know your brother-in-law will try to get under your skin within the first 30 minutes of the party, you might benefit from playing out the scenarios in advance. Before you head into the lion’s den, think about the worst-case scenario and plan how you could best handle the situation. Consider what a calm response would look and sound like, and actually practice giving it. Doing a dry run of reacting to any possible conflict can help prevent you from being caught off guard.
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3. “Differentiate” yourself from your family members.
Family differentiation, according to the theory developed by psychiatrist Murray Bowen, MD, is the ability to separate yourself from your family members so you don’t become emotionally fused with them. Fusing, of course, often leads to a higher likelihood of being reactive and reacting poorly. Take time before you meet with your family to remind yourself that their problems are not yours to solve, and that you don’t need to take on their emotions, criticisms, or negative energy.
4. Show empathy and kindness in facing difficult relationships.
Sometimes when one person shows warmth and kindness, the tension in the whole room can ease. It takes a lot of strength to be that person, but shifting your mindset from putting up walls to showing empathy can help the holidays be a lot happier for everyone—especially you!
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