Four Ways to Avoid Family Stress Over the Holidays

Four Mindful Ways to Avoid Family Stress Over the Holidays

By Laleh Hancock

We are told this is the most wonderful time of year – but for many, Christmas and the holiday season is one of the most stressful times, especially when it comes to being with family.

Old feuds and upsets that, for most of the year we sweep under the carpet, can rear their ugly heads with the tension and high energy of the Christmas season.

How do you avoid the stress, relax and even have fun ­­with your family this Christmas?

Here are four essential tools to keep your cool and embrace a joyful holiday season with your loved ones.

  1.       Forget the past

We create stress when we use memories of the past to color our expectations of what will happen tomorrow.  When you anticipate the worst, you will create exactly that showing up.  Are you willing to neutralize all your judgments based on the past and start fresh? What if today was a new adventure, and every person in your family was a new, unknown character?

Change your mindset in the lead up to any family event with this exercise (and use it every day you are with them, too!):

Each morning, wipe the slate clean.  Imagine your family, all related problems and stresses in front of you, and then say “everything that is, I let it all go”. Make a commitment each day that no matter what it takes, everyone gets a clean slate and a fresh start. This includes you, too!

You can clear the slate any time. If an upset comes up, count to ten, then wipe the slate clean.

If you get annoyed or stressed when dealing with a family member, let that feeling be there for ten seconds, then wipe the slate clean again. If every ten seconds was brand new, would you be able to hold onto any stress?

When you don’t dwell on the past or the negative, you become more present in the moment and are available to receive the positive that can show up.

  1.       When anyone judges you – don’t buy it!

How often do you avoid familial conversations for fear of judgmental remarks?

Our immediate reaction to criticism is to put our walls up. When we go into defense mode we can also create strong physical symptoms – muscles and body tensing, heart-rate going up, thoughts racing. Rather than put up walls, what if everything could just wash by, like water in a stream? A simple tool to achieve this is called “Interesting Point of View.”

When someone’s opinion gets under your skin and you feel those defenses activate: stop, breathe, and say to yourself in your head, “Interesting point of view, I have this point of view.” Take a breath. Repeat it: “Interesting point of view, I have this point of view.”  Repeat it as many times as necessary until the stress begins to lift and your body relaxes.

What if an opinion or point of view did not have to be real or true – and you did not have to buy it! Remember – it’s just interesting and it is just a point of view.

  1.       Ask Questions

When we make assumptions about how a person or situation is going to be, we can’t be open to any alternative. When you expect the worst, you stop being curious.

It only takes a simple question to move beyond limited mindsets.  Shift any roadblock with these two questions:

  • What else is possible here that I haven’t considered yet?
  • How does it get any better than this?

Change is always possible if you open the door. If you let it, a good or bad situation can always turn out better than you can imagine!

  1.       Have fun!

What if this Christmas was not about problems to avoid, but possibilities for relaxation and good times? It’s easy to focus on the negative and what could go wrong – but what could go right?

What fun and joy are available to you that you have not yet considered? What conversations and activities would be fun for you? Who is around that you can enjoy?

What could you add or include that would make the holiday festivities greater for you and your family this Christmas?

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