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Dealing with Holiday Stress

Recently, I had the opportunity of visiting with Katherine Kisiel of Fox News here in Austin about coping with holiday stress.
In particular, what should we do when we need to visit certain relatives and others with whom we don’t get along? Here are a few quick tips:

1. Recognize that you are not alone. We all encounter these challenges at some point in our lives, whether it is running into an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, difficulties with a co-worker, or dealing with the in-laws (remember that they are having trouble dealing with us too!). When we believe that we are being singled out by God, the universe, fate, etc., it adds an unnecessary layer of suffering to an already challenging situation. Free yourself of this burden.

2. Develop a plan ahead of time on how you want to best interact with this person. Don’t enter the situation “blind.” By having a game plan ready, you will be able to minimize the chance of a negative encounter. If you have a spouse or significant other who will be attending with you, team up with him/her to help you out. He or she can be your “wing man.”

3. Stick to safe topics. Ya’ll don’t agree about politics, religion, or the solution to the economic woes of the country? Now is not the time to hash those things out. Also, avoid talking about previous negative encounters, unless you are sure you can truly mend the fences. Pointing out to your relative why they ruined Christmas for everyone last year is a good way to start ruining this holiday season as well.

4. Don’t drink too much! There’s a temptation to knock back several beers or other spirits in effort to “relax.” While some alcohol consumption at holiday get-togethers is fairly normal, excessive drinking can lower inhibitions, worsen impulsive control, and increase irritability. It can make it more likely that you say something or react in a way that you will later regret.

5. Keep your visit time-limited. Sometimes it is impossible to skip a visit with certain relatives altogether. There are other relatives that you need to see, you don’t get to see them often, and so on. Skipping a visit, in such cases, could result in a lot of hurt feelings. So, you should visit but┬ájust keep your visit short. There’s no magic formula to figure this out, but just see if you can determine what is the minimum amount of time you can visit and keep the peace. If you stretch out your visit too long, you are likely to let your guard down at some point and say/do something regrettable. Don’t set the bar too high for yourself!

6. On a more broad level, these challenges can be viewed as beneficial for us. If we can learn to be patient and control our emotions in adverse situations, it will serve us well throughout all aspects of our lives.

7. On another broad level, realize that your own happiness…and that of others at the holiday gathering…are very much linked to how well we get along with one another. If you unload on your Uncle Joe about what a rotten person he is, what purpose does that serve? He’s going to feel hurt and angry and probably let you have it. Then, your own happiness and peace of mind are lost…at least for a while. If you can learn to co-exist with your cantankerous Uncle Joe (or maybe better to view him as “eccentric”), you will both be better off.

8. Finally, remember – it’s Christmas (or the holiday season)! This is a time for peace on Earth and goodwill toward others. Dwelling upon the negatives will spoil your mood and your holiday season. Uncle Joe doesn’t even have to say or do a thing – you can spoil your own happiness just by ruminating on the negatives. Instead, focus on the positives of the holiday season, the relatives that you enjoy getting to see, the fabulous food, the time away from work, and so on.

We at the ApaCenter wish you all a wonderful and safe holiday season.

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