How to Get Through the Holiday Season
When Love, Peace & Joy Aren’t Always Present
The Christmas and holiday season can bring fun, giving, laughter and time with close friends and family. At the same time, for many of us, it can also bring stress, fatigue, heartache and a lack of joy and peace.
Among many things, some of this stress and negativity can be caused by the company we keep over the holidays. There are people are just hard to be around.
You may have an Uncle Harry, who is always telling dirty jokes. Maybe you have a Mother-in-law, whose anxiety makes everyone around her feel on edge. Or it could be your brother who you haven’t seen in awhile because he’s had the same destructive addiction for years and is still unwilling to get help.
There are several dynamics that come into play when we are in the same space as certain people over the holidays.
You may have a fantastic family and love every minute with them, however if you are like many others I’ve talked to, you may be anticipating the time spent with difficult individuals.
Some people can be challenging to be around — people we would not choose to be with if they weren’t forced upon us due to family obligations.
When we don’t see certain people on a regular basis, it’s easy to avoid some of the challenges they bring. We can show up as peaceful and joyful pretty easily when we are in a peaceful and joyful space.
Remaining positive while you are present in the darkness of other people’s drama and chaos can be a lot tougher.
Luckily, there are some tried and tested ways to enjoy the holidays regardless of who shows up and how they choose to interact with you. Learn 6 techniques to help you remain low stress, fun and positive, using whatever situation you’re in as an opportunity to challenge yourself and feel strong, confident and peaceful in the process.
1. Choose How You Want to Show Up
We can’t control others, however we can control ourselves. That is truly all we have control over. We can influence others, however we can’t control them.
When we look to others to make our holiday season better, we give our power away to them, asking them to make us feel positive, content and at peace.
That is a lot to ask of others and it doesn’t give you much control over your experience or emotions.
Even with all the chaos going on around you, you can still choose how you are going to show up.
Let’s be honest, some people can be difficult, boisterous and annoying, however with that being said, you have a choice as to how you want to react in those situations.
You can choose, in advance, how you want to enter into any situation.
It is simply a plan of action and will not necessarily be a perfect system, but like any plan, it is good to have it in place and it can also change if need be.
So what is your plan?
Do you want to be peaceful, joyful, positive, fun?
Choose a quality and step into it BEFORE you enter into the difficult situation. When you enter into it, remember what you said you wanted to be. Be responsible for your ‘being’, knowing that’s all you have control over.
“Energy is contagious: either you affect people or you infect people.” Anonymous
People being difficult is About THEM, not you.
Know that the way someone is acting toward you has very little (or possibly nothing) to do with you.
Just like you have control over the way you show up, so do they. If they are showing up difficult, angry or challenging, it is because they are essentially choosing that based on what’s going on inside them.
When you understand that their stuff is actually THEIR STUFF you will not be as quick to take it personally and retaliate.
When your controlling family member gets angry at you because you didn’t do something their way, remember it is about THEM.
The way you REACT is about YOU.
So choose to react in a way that keeps you in the most peaceful, joyful state possible and know that whatever is going on with them is not yours to take on and carry.
The more you let their stuff be theirs, the more peace you will have.
2. Focus on Giving
This season is a time of giving. It’s easy to focus on what we are receiving from others (both emotionally and tangibly) instead of what we can give.
I don’t mean presents — I mean presence.
Who are you and what are you giving emotionally to others?
Are you giving support, love, encouragement?
Are you extending yourself to help others and be there for them?
Are you giving your time to be with people — to ask questions and allow them to speak while you listen in an engaged way?
Tangible gifts are great, however time, energy, love and support can be even greater gifts to the people around you.
We all want to feel loved so think about how you can extend that love to others during this season (even when you don’t feel like it).
3. Prepare Yourself
You probably have some idea of the characters you’ll encounter over the holidays. It is important to think about your Plan Of Action.
Do you have one?
How are you going to face the uncle who makes inappropriate sexual comments or your mom who you barely speak to on a regular basis because she is too difficult to deal with?
Along with choosing to be joyful or peaceful, you may also want to develop a P.O.A.
When I am anticipating being with people who are difficult, I try to think of ways that I can deal with scenarios that are bound to come up. If I know that historically I’ve had to deal with a controlling family member, I can choose to keep the peace by letting him have his way and using it as an opportunity to practise surrender and inner peace.
It may be painful to not say what I want and have my way (we all like to have our way), but in the end it will create more peace if I let certain things go. When I choose to surrender it empowers me to endure the pain of keeping quiet and builds my endurance muscle for other situations that might come up like this in the future.
When I know I’ll be around people who know everything and have nothing new to learn, I have a strategy that seems to work well:
I ask a lot of questions.
I choose not to waste too much time sharing my opinion, knowing that they won’t be listening anyway. I like to influence others, however sometimes it’s best to just be silent and listen.
Usually it’s only for a few hours or days so you can make it an opportunity for growth instead of looking at it as stressful.
4. Ask for Help or Lend a Helping Hand
You don’t have to go through the difficulties of this season alone. If you have someone that you trust in the mix, allow them to help you when you’re struggling.
Have a secret sign that says “I need a break”. Tell them ahead of time about your difficulties in the situation and lean on them when needed. Trust that they will be there for you and help to alleviate some of the stress.
If you don’t have someone who you can truly count on then ask for help from the people around you based on what you know they’re capable of. Most of the time people will be understanding of your need to get away for a short while.
If you’re hosting, you can ask everyone to contribute a dish to the meal. Enlist kids to help out (most of them actually like doing this). Maybe your 4 year old granddaughter can help with the cookie baking and your 16 year old nephew can set the table. Allow people to help do the dishes and clean up.
Don’t be a superhero — you deserve to enjoy the holidays too.
If you are not hosting, enrol others to help you help out the host. Offer your services and invite others to do the same. Not everyone knows how to ask for help and you could be a big part of someone else’s positive experience by offering an extra set of hands.
When we give to others in this way it takes the focus off of what’s going on inside us. When we get too caught up in our own ‘stuff’ it can be helpful to take the focus off ourselves and put it on someone else in need.
We have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others over the holidays. When we focus on building up, helping out and being of contribution, we will be filled up inside and so will they.
5. Build People Up and Let Others Build You Up
It’s amazing how one person can change the entire dynamic of a situation.
One person has the power to make us feel differently.
One person can walk into a room and shift the energy in it.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “That person’s smile can light up a room” — and it’s true.
We have that power ourselves and we can also do that for others. Think about the influence someone negative has on your energy — they tend to suck the life right out of you. In turn, the positive people you’re around have a way of building you up and making you smile.
Remember that you can be the person who changes the dynamic in a room just by changing your energy, outlook and level of engagement.
Are you the positive person that others want to be around?
Do you build people up and make them smile?
Do they leave an event after having been with you feeling better in some way?
To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. You just have to care enough and be there.
Carve out time with the positive people in your life over the holidays, especially if you know you’ll need a ‘pick me up’.
Sometimes all I need after dealing with stress is some good quality time with a person I feel GREAT around. Close friends and family who build me up, love me for who I am and who I feel at ease around can really help balance the difficult situations.
If you are going to deal with some difficulties over the holidays, it might serve you well to schedule in some time with the people who build you up too.
Think about what emotions come to mind with certain people in your life and carve out some time to spend with the people who elicit positive emotions in you. This will offset the negativity you might experience with others over the holidays.
Mix in time with people who build you up and remember to also try and build others up too, regardless of their negative energy or stress inducing tendencies. You can make a big difference in someone’s life if you love them a little more than they’re used to.
6. Take a Break for YOU
If you are giving a lot and find yourself being drained by people who take a lot and don’t give much back, it would be worthwhile to set aside time just for YOU.
You need time to recharge, regenerate, reenergize and get back to equilibrium.
Do whatever fills you up — read a book, take a hot bath, journal, go for a walk, watch a movie, meditate or take a nap. There are so many ways you can build yourself up and stay healthy physically, emotionally and mentally over the holiday season.
DO NOT FEEL GUILTY about this!
You are only good for others when you feel healthy yourself. People will understand if you want to take some time for you. Know that you are doing this for yourself AND for the people around you — it will have a positive impact on everyone (even if they don’t understand it fully).
Believe that you are worthy of having time to relax and enjoy being alone.
And if you don’t like being alone for very long, carve out time to sleep. Sleep is extremely important to our health and getting a good night’s rest will help you be at your best when you’re awake. It will give you the stamina to positively face anything that comes at you.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”
The holidays can be a difficult time and there are ways to cope that will help make the days go smoother. As much as we would like to change the people around us we simply can’t, so we get to be the person we would want to be around.
We get to take care of ourselves and influence others in a positive way.
We can choose to look for opportunities to contribute and build others up.
We can focus on loving and seeking to understand before passing judgment.
There isn’t a perfect system and there will be things that come up that trow you off balance. In those situations when you come unhinged, be kind to yourself, re-group and do the best you can moving forward.
Be present in the moment and remember you have a choice — you can ask and offer help, be prepared, let things go, own your emotions, take time for you when needed and balance your time with people who build you up.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!