If you are one of the lucky few who laughs merrily in an aura of unconditional love and acceptance while sipping hot chocolate and feeling no resentment or unfinished business with family members around the holidays, feel free to click onward and away from this post.
But for many others, the holidays mean interacting with those who display painfully predictable patterns, enact some sort of chaotic dysfunction, or respond in familiar but annoying ways to your life, parenting, profession, and/or general self. If you fall into this category, I hope the following six suggestions will help to provide more peace and joy for you this season:
1. Identify your needs, and the people you know can meet them. Do you ever go through a familiar cycle of going repeatedly to a particular person for comfort and support and instead receive judgment, criticism, or silence? Identify the people in your life who are reliable and encouraging and put their numbers in the favorites list on your phone.
2. Practice radical acceptance of others. You will experience freedom when you stop needing others to change into the ideal people you’d like them to be.
3. Focus on what is in your control. How long are you visiting? How long are you inviting others to visit? Will you have your own mode of transportation to get out and run an errand, take some deep breaths, and call the people on your favorites list? Call them!
4. Remember that there’s a time to speak and a time to be silent. Stand up for yourself if directly challenged, but stay away from polarizing topics with people who are hurtful. If you need to address someone about a serious topic, let them know ahead of time that you have something to talk to them about and try to schedule a specific time to have the discussion (preferably during your most refreshed and focused time of day). Plan to call someone on the favorites list either before or after that discussion (or both!).
5. Do what works. Ask yourself what your most successful strategy has been in the past. Do it! If nothing has worked yet, try something different. Ask supportive friends for ideas. Maybe you will experiment with journaling, deep breathing, being more active, being more still, or praying. Note what happens.
6. Establish new meaning with the holidays. Even if the holidays have typically meant conflict, loss, or sadness, it is never to late to give yourself the gift of new meaning and focus. Decide that this year, the meaning of the holidays will be peace, or joy, and seek experiences that go with that theme.