Have you ever been in a drug store and heard two old ladies screaming obscenities at each other from across the building? Feel the stress already?
Then they find each other and show each other the good deals they found in the CVS clearance aisle. This would be Shirley and Jean, my grandmother and her sister. This would be my family visits with them every Christmas. Tyler Perry knew my grandmother and designed a character after her; Madea. One thing he got wrong was that my grandmother never ended the episode with uplifting wisdom and positive vibes.
Although my example may be a little bit more extreme than most, you can probably identify with the scenario. We all have “those” relatives that might not be fun to get along with during the holidays.
So, we would like to offer some tips for mitigating emotional stress at Christmas. The first thing I always tell people that I am emotion coaching is this: YOU are here. “Those people” aren’t. So, I can only help YOU with your behavior. No matter how annoying or verbally abusive another person is and how right you are, I cannot help someone who does not come to me with a problem.
So here are my 5 quick tips for reducing stress during the holidays:
1) Don’t regress to childhood or teenage you
Gill Hasson, author of How to Deal with Difficult People tells us all families have a set dynamic and we play our parts from the earliest age – as the bossy one (me), the joker (my brother Joshua), the irresponsible one (Micah as a teen but not now he has changed a lot), the controlling one (Dad), or the Neat Freak (Mom) and so on. Even mature adults find it easy to get pulled back into the old scripts (habit patterns) when surrounded by family. Resist it and ask who is being drawn into this – the adult me or the teenage me?
Then choose a different narrative for yourself. Remember, you cannot change other people’s behavior but you can change your own. As Dad and Mom have always said, “Own your 2%.”
2) Make memories, not work
Meredith, my mother in law, used to tell me “If it doesn’t matter in five years, it’s not worth fighting about at Christmas.”
Delegate! Let people help. Let people have fun. Consciously decide not to worry that they won’t reach your standards. If you need, decide on tasks the day before so everyone knows what’s expected of them, then start the day with a bright attitude expecting a good day and be flexible. When you are flexible you bend instead of break.
I made a lot of messes at Christmas trying to keep my children on their routine because it made MY life easier. We had a specific diet. We had a specific routine. We don’t eat a lot of junk because then I have to deal with the fall out.
One day my husband was finally able to communicate that the family just wanted good memories. And me trying to maintain and control my children’s strict schedule and “normal” life during a very special, not normal season was ANNOYING every one! The kids were crying and upset watching their cousins eat treats, stay up late, and have all this fun without them. I spent all my time “parenting” them through tantrums instead of visiting with the family and allowing 3 days out of 365 for “spoiling” my kids.
This mind set has made me better as a nutritionist! I encourage my clients to get off the wagon. Making memories and enjoying life actually helps them get right back on when they get home. Everyone needs a fun break.
Parents, I encourage you to delegate and apply #2 to this scenario. Grandparents I encourage you to apply #4 here.
4) Assume the best about people and not the worst
I had a person in my life who for many years constantly assigned negative motives to my actions whenever I was around them. They would look at the way I said or did something and assigned these false motives whether they were my true intention or not, never bothering to ask me what the truth was. This person operated in our relationship out of these false motives, expecting me to reject them. It was hurtful to both of us and I spent a lot of time avoiding that person. I also never wanted help or advice from them because I felt judged and was never given a chance to be me.
If you see someone doing something that seems crazy to you, ask the Lord to give you His thoughts about that person. (1 Cor. 13:7)
5) Examine your own behavior
Stop thinking about all the relatives who need to read this article. If you are thinking someone else needs to read this, then this article is for you. My dad used to say there is a kernel of truth that applies to you in most corrections. The mature people find that kernel and move forward in Love.
I hope these tips help. We want you to have the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years!