The Holidays: Less Stress, More Cheer

The widespread commercialism of the holidays may be getting you down. How would you like to spend less time racking up credit card debt and more time putting heart into your relationships? Of course, it’s important to appreciate the traditions of giving and receiving. But the accumulation of stuff can’t hold a candle to the gift that matters most. This year, recreate the joy of simpler days by giving the priceless gift of connection.

There’s a lot riding on family time during the holidays and this can create stress for everyone. With blended families, there’s the challenge of logistics – trying to accommodate everyone’s needs and still not compromise your own. Of course, there are always ghosts of holidays past. And the expectations of today are sometimes unrealistic and often unfulfilled.

So, how can you stop the holiday inertia and catapult yourself off the couch, into the action?  The following seven practical insights can help you restore balance to your relationships during the holidays:

Realize that the anticipatory anxiety you experience is normal.  Questions about the particulars of what to do and how to do it are common for a lot of families this time of year. And with so many options to consider, feelings of apprehension are just a normal part of the process.

If you’re traveling, remember to pack your patience. It may be more stressful to go back home than have the family on your turf. Typical dynamics and unfinished business are bound to surface. Make a decision this year to leave behind the baggage that’s too large to fit into the overhead compartment.

You don’t have to be all things to all people all the time. . It’s OK to make any situation easier on yourself. If Aunt Sue doesn’t get along with Uncle John’s second wife, stagger their holiday visits. Instead of preparing all the food, do a potluck and encourage others to bring their signature dish.

Explore the possibility of your out of town guests staying in a hotel. When you get over the initial discomfort of bringing up the idea, it might be a relief for all of you. Actually, everyone may welcome it as the beginning of a new family tradition.

If you get into a conflict with a family member, don’t take the bait.  Aren’t some family members always unreasonable? And others just seem to be waiting for an argument? Despite how hard it may be, try to take the higher ground and walk away.

Express your gratitude. Reflect on what you love about your family members and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. Point out their positives qualities rather than focusing on the negatives. Whether family members are presently with you or in your memories, forgiveness is a gift you give them and yourself.

With a relationship that matters to you, bury the hatchet.  If in the past your emotions have gone underground and then you’ve blown up later, don’t let these feelings fester.  Acknowledge the part that you play in the disagreement and talk about it now – deal with it once and for all.

Perhaps you don’t have many models for repairing the family. You may have to make it up as you go along. Trust the process – often the messiness of emotions leads to better understanding of yourself and others. Conflict can serve as an invitation to grow when you honor the importance of relationships. With family, there are no returns or exchanges even with a gift receipt. So embrace the holiday season and rejoice in the connection.

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