Dr. Laura’s Tips for Enjoying the Holidays with Difficult People at Family Gatherings
The Holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year or the most challenging. If you find it to be the most challenging time, here are some ways to help you manage your thoughts/feelings/behaviors – which are the things we can control:
1. Be prepared and plan head
Set the Tone – First of all be grateful – find things that you are grateful for. This starts you off with the right attitude – though our attitude can be the first thing to go –remember you can always go back to a grateful one – write your grateful list down or put them in your phone before you leave for the visit. You can always refer back to them.
Assess – Assess your areas of sensitivity or buttons that can and will be pushed – when pushed – stay calm, courteous, and considerate – have a mantra – “I am sorry you feel that way” and change the subject – this is setting a boundary and prevents you from being hooked into a conversation you don’t want to be in.
Boundaries – Boundaries will be important during this time – set a time limit –set a time of when you will arrive and when you will leave; give yourself permission to go take a walk if you find your emotions, not in a good place; have an activity to do – most of the times I hosted Thanksgiving – we played Pictionary – with prizes for everyone – not just the winner – people really enjoyed the fun and prizes. Playing a game keeps people’s thoughts, feelings and actions in the present.
Watch where you sit – If going back to your childhood home be aware of where you are sitting – yes literally sitting – we tend to sit in the same places we did when we were young and then we regress to that younger age – we do not want to do that!
You can do it – Know it will take energy and preparation for a successful day and you can do it!
2. Set it aside – If an issue comes up, do your best to set it aside – if you need to address it at another time wait until you’re alone with that person, or when alcohol isn’t involved. You want to address it as a mature adult, not the regressed adolescent we can become during these times when our feelings get hurt.
3. Time to Recover – Give yourself permission after the event/day/weekend/week – to have a time for recovery – you may need time to process and then let it go – talking about it gives it momentum and will activate the negative emotions – talk to your therapist, spouse or your best friend FOR A SET PERIOD OF TIME -then be done with it. The more you complain about it the longer it will take to have it not be the focus of your day.
4. Remember the reason for the season – Be thankful and appreciative for what you have been given and everything that brings you joy!