The Holidays are Back…Along with Family Gatherings Anxiety

4 Tips for Coping with Holiday Family Stress…

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It’s official…at least in terms of retail stores…  

Retailers are pushing us through Halloween and right into Christmas.

Thanksgiving is the first holiday that puts us right in the heart of family gatherings, and often family stress, tension and drama. Whether you are actively caregiving or not, family demands, personalities and expectations take their toll. The holiday season that is “supposed” to be filled with joy, peace and good will, seems to bring stress, tension and frustration as well as sadness and feelings of overwhelm. We can make it better.  

So, if your family gatherings tend to be challenging, overwhelming or otherwise uncomfortable, now is a really good time to sharpen your focus and decide how you want to handle this season.

No matter what family dramas may occur over the holidays, you don’t have to get sucked into them! 

Steps to Effectively Cope with Family and Holidays:

1.What’s Your Desired Outcome? A desired outcome has to meet two basic requirements:

a) It must be what you want, NOT what you don’t want, and

b) it has to be something over which you, yourself have control.

Let’s start with a clear focus and intention for you, yourself, whether you are on your own or planning to be with family for holiday get-togethers. While you don’t have control over others’ behaviors or attitudes, you do have control over how you respond to them. By staying aware and intentional, and having a clear desired outcome in mind, you can handle anything from veiled (or not so veiled) criticisms to openly angry retorts from others, without becoming triggered into diving into the drama yourself.

2. And We Breathe: Taking a slow, deep breath before speaking helps you to move from reacting to responding. The breath gives you the opportunity to pause and connect to your desired outcome. It will help you avoid contributing to the escalation of emotional confrontations and making things worse. That in itself is a big victory; you won’t leave the gathering feeling guilty or regretful about your own actions!

3. Be Mindful: Focusing on applying mindfulness, conscious awareness of your desired outcomes helps you to create healthy boundaries with family members who might otherwise trigger your anger, frustration, insecurity or defensiveness. This awareness makes a huge difference! Learning where your triggers are coming from, and which communication tactics are most successful for you, with your family members, gives you enormous power in handling yourself gracefully in the face of challenging interactions.

4. Take a Break: If things feel too heated, and you feel that you might lose your cool, or you see others losing their cool, take a break—walk out of the room, go to the bathroom, take a walk, make a phone call to a trusted friends—stop interacting. This also gives you an opportunity to breathe, get centered and refocused on your desired outcome.

Family gatherings can often be like walking through emotional minefields. Thinking ahead and having strategies and skills that you’ve practiced and used with success in the past allows you to handle the drama that frequently occurs during holiday family get-togethers. You can steer gracefully around it, rather than have it take you by surprise and ruin your mood.

As the holidays approach, please take time to take care of you. Remember the importance of taking as good care of yourself as you do of those you love.

And we breathe…

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