Prepare for Difficult Holiday Moments

Holidays can be wonderful, but they come with their fair share of stress. Bringing family together can bring up old wounds, complicated dynamics or triggering topics.

by Carmen Catterfield, MA, Honeybee Healing & Counseling Services

Consider these tips to help you weather the stress and embrace the holiday spirit.

Know your “hot buttons”
To prepare for conflict, we first must know what sets us off. I call these “hot buttons” — they are anything from side comments about your weight or why you’re not married to a full-blown political debate. In anticipation of the holidays, reflect on things you know rub you the wrong way. Make a list. Check it twice.

Speak up
Now, reflect on how you can respond differently. If you usually stay silent or leave the room when you’re upset, see what it feels like to stay present and use your voice. If you often find yourself in the middle of a heated debate, notice what it’s like to communicate your feelings clearly; then disengage.  

Here are some statements to keep in mind:

  • “I see that differently.” 
  • “I’m not comfortable talking about this, let’s … (pick a new topic or activity).”
  • “I’m comfortable with how I feel about this topic and am not interested in changing my mind.”
  • “No.” (Remember: it’s a complete sentence, you don’t need to say anything else). 
  • “When you do/say that, it hurts my feelings.”

Take breaks
We all need a moment alone, otherwise it is easy to lose track of how we are actually feeling. Plan your breaks. Be the one to run to the store. Take a walk. Step into a room and close the door. Pet the dog.

If you notice yourself feeling stressed, step outside and focus your mind on your five senses. Count what you can hear, see, touch, taste and smell. Breathe. Your brain will begin to clear and bring itself out of a stress response and into the present. 

Celebrate (yourself & the little things)!
Stay connected to the positive! Celebrate when you notice you’re changing your behavior. Savor the small moments of laughter, joy and happiness.