Our office is always busy this time of year with adults seeking out support to prepare themselves to spend the holidays with their parents, in-laws and other relatives. They tell us how much they value this time and that they’re grateful they’re able to spend it with the people they love. Then they tell us about the stressful part – that one relative or family dynamic that usually pushes their buttons. For some this may be an overly critical mother who seems to knit-pick at them during the entire visit. For others it’s the relative who drinks too much and becomes belligerent as the day-long celebration wears on. Or perhaps it’s the unaddressed tension in the air as the family tries to ignore unresolved conflicts of years gone by.

Let’s be honest. For a lot of people there are aspects about their families that they don’t embrace. The combination of familiarity and annoying family patterns can sometimes prompt them to say things they would normally filter out or to behave in ways they later regret. All of this causes an element of stress to follow them home for the holidays.

The truth is that you can’t control the behaviors of others but you always have control over the way you choose to handle the situation. If you endeavor to be less reactive and more compassionate this holiday season then set aside a few minutes to create a new game plan to address the stressors in your family:

Step 1 – Identify the family dynamic or the individual that pushes your buttons and gets you riled up. Step 2 – Take note of how you normally respond when this situation arises. What do you notice in your body when this happens? Which emotions do you feel? What do you typically say or do in response? Is your typical response causing additional conflict between you and your partner? Step 3 – Identify how you would like to respond. Ask yourself how the most mature, loving and forgiving version of yourself would handle the situation. Would you respond the way you normally do? Would you bite your tongue this time? Or would you simply let the issue roll off your back so that you don’t stay stressed out and focused on the problem for the rest of the day? How would you like to feel emotionally next time it happens? How would you like to feel physically next time? Step 4 – Close your eyes and play the mental movie of how you would like things to go. See the same old annoying problem occurring again but this time you see yourself handling the situation differently, according to the intentions you’ve set in step 3. Let this movie run through your mind a few times, each time envisioning yourself handling the problem gracefully and successfully. Step 5 – When the family gathering occurs don’t be surprised when the same annoying issue arises again. See it as the opportunity to break your own patterns and implement your new and improved response. Then return your attention to the joy and beauty of the day.

For some individualized support over the holidays, contact our team.