Manage emotional shifts during the holidays
Posted November 20, 2016
As true as turkey, pumpkin pie and family gatherings, so is the reality that emotional shifts happen during the holidays. As we identify and deal with the stress in a meaningful way, we can lose rumbling resentment and get back to enjoying real relationships.
1. Predict the stressor. When you know what’s coming (busy events, work stress, Aunt June), you can be proactive in handling it. Consider the top three frustrations you’ll face in the season. Identify where it originates and choose an intentional, doable way to respond. Does Aunt June tell you how to decorate the tree? Does your co-worker leave you holding the holiday bag? Decide ahead of time how you will react and then make a plan.
2. Choose a coping tool. Or two, or three. A coping tool could be a go-to phrase or action for when emotions get high. Decide which are the most genuine and effective for the situation or person. Then put them on your “holiday emotional tool belt” for when you need to remodel a situation or make some repairs. Here are a few suggestions:
First, remove yourself from the frustration. Get some fresh air, go to the store or “check” on something in the kitchen. This one simple choice can make all the difference.
Second, use a coping phrase. Say something authentic for you such as, “I need to share …” or “What would help me is …” Take a deep breath and speak with kindness. Articulate your thoughts as simply and focused as possible, and stay on topic with the one thing you need or need to share.
Third, flip it. Instead of correcting or criticizing, consider the other person’s point of view. Try to express appreciation for what good the person did do — maybe Aunt June is actually trying to help. Often a person’s stepping on our emotional turf is really an emotional bid for connection or contribution.
3. Invite visitors to be “flexible.” My mom recently visited for the return of our son from his two-year church mission. In the go-go events of that week, I learned five key principles on how to better handle family transitions. But first and foremost was the gift of my mother fitting herself into our busy family schedule, not the other way around. When in doubt, make visiting family aware of your needs. Remind them that you still have a chock-full children’s schedule and ask for their flexibility. Patience is a virtue, and a more likely future invitation.
Make this a genuine season of managing those emotional holiday shifts. And in the process, grow rich and real relationships that last beyond the season.
Connie Sokol is an author, presenter, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.