As the holidays draw closer, many of us feel anxious or concerned about extended time with family. We often participate in family gatherings that can cause friction or discomfort. If this is you - here are a few tips to help keep your sanity in difficult situations.
1) Have clear expectations: Reflect for a few minutes on what you are hoping for in your interactions. Are these hopes reasonable? Is it possible to attend with NO expectations? We often get stuck wishing for something that is very unlikely to take place and feeling anxious as a result. Try to relax and limit your expectations of others.
2) Take breaks when you feel stress: Perhaps you can run to the store for more snacks or ice. Perhaps you can sneak outside for a few deep breaths and some positive reminders (even if the reminder is that you get to head home soon!) Maybe you can offer to do dishes and focus on that and limit interactions for a few minutes. Whatever it is - taking a break is okay.
3) Be curious about people rather than condemning. This might sound strange, but we often spend so much time replaying the things that bug us about others in our head (Why does Mom always have to do that? So frustrating! or "Ugh! There he goes again, talking about work constantly) Instead, allow yourself to be curious "I wonder what makes him only talk about work?" or "I wonder why Mom always needs to do that?" Sometimes being curious allows for more empathy, which can help us feel less annoyed or anxious. And finally:
4) Behave in a way that you will be proud of later: Do your best to be the best version of yourself possible, even in uncomfortable circumstances. Often when we have negative experiences with family, we head home with a healthy dose of guilt on top of it; which isn't helpful! Limit the guilt by attempting to think through your behaviors rather than just reacting to negative things. It takes energy to do - but likely less energy than all the regrets will use later. And last but not least - try to notice the good and positive things about your loved ones! However small these things may be,looking for good is a great way to distract from unpleasant things.
Dr. Traci Lowenthal is the owner of Creative Insights Counseling, a counseling agency in Redlands serving individuals, families, and couples. She can be reached at 909-240-7833.