Relationship coach Lucy Keaveny says…
Don’t take things personally. This year has created distance with relatives, and we may only be seeing some of them for the very first time this Christmas and therefore the pressure to get on is even greater. If everyone has differing opinions around Covid, then it’s best to try and not take things too much to heart.
Lay down some ground rules. Decide the amount of time you are willing to spend with each other and explain how you expect the day to go. If you are tense or agitated or exhausted and stressed, then be aware of this. If it doesn’t feel right to visit family and you just want something quiet and simple, then you are within your rights this year to do exactly that.
Don’t expect everyone to feel the same way as you. Some of us want to really let our hair down and celebrate, others just want to watch films, relax, eat and do very little. Having a level of flexibility and compassion is going to make it easier for everyone. If you are only spending it with your immediate family, then give each other space. If you feel tensions starting to rise know you may be just as responsible in creating it. Take yourself for a walk, go for a run, and get outside for a short while to cool off.
Recognise kindness, gratitude and compassion are key. There is no one who hasn’t been affected by the pandemic. If we start to cultivate this loving awareness to others, we don’t take the way they may behave as seriously. If you have any rage and resentments, try and put them aside for one day or let that person know what is bothering you before you come together.
Communication is paramount. Your kids may be at home more and trying to be as relaxed around them as possible will put less pressure on everyone. If you’re having trouble communicating with your partner, try and let them know what’s on your mind, calmly and kindly. Honesty will always deflate a scaling argument – just know your boundaries. Once you’re clear on your desires for this holiday period be as clear to relatives, your family and your children as possible. Finally, don’t drink so much that all of the above goes completely out the window…
Accept the day to come. For many, problems with family and friends can begin before you’ve even arrived. Entering a stressful environment unprepared is one of the reasons many family events can get the better of you, so accepting the issues beforehand better prepares you to cope with the possible tension. You need to accept what is true about your family and friends, instead of fantasying about the perfect day – be realistic rather than hope for the best.
Avoid certain subjects. Many of us are drawn into confrontation and arguments at Christmas time. Whether it’s an older brother teasing you, or a best friend bringing up an embarrassing event from the past, we all tell ourselves that we’ll ignore it, but eventually we cave. To help with this issue, you can apply a method of coping that works in three easy steps – register and acknowledge the experience, determine if it’s useful or not, and if useful, react to it. If not, then let it go.
Try not to regress. We all grow up, adapt to new environments, and over time change as people. Except on holidays, where people subconsciously revert back into family dynamics. This can obviously be a recipe for disaster, as it can bring a lot of childhood and old behaviours to the surface which can trigger some unwanted tension. Whether it’s arguing with a sibling or fighting with your dad, one of the best ways to deal with it is ask questions. It can move the relationship past frustration, and towards new and improved bonds.
Pick your battles. When someone who rubs you up the wrong way says something you don’t like, it’s very easy to jump on that and get ready for an all-out argument, but it’s more rational to pick and choose these disagreements. Try to steer the conversation into more a friendly, less volatile direction, and bring in other people so it diffuses the tension.
Find some space. Sometimes, the best solution is time and space. Being cooped up indoors all day with siblings can be a recipe for disaster, especially after barely any social interaction for the last nine months, so try removing yourself from the toxic environment and let the heat settle. Collect yourself, assess the situation and take a moment before trying to fix an argument. Sometimes all is needed is a five-minute break, other times it’s an hour walk to collect your thoughts. The main thing to remember is that the damage is harder to fix after you’ve said something you regret, so if you find yourself feeling tense take a breather and readjust.
For more information, mental health and relationship support, visit JessicaBoston.com, DrTonyOrtega.com, LucyKeaveny.com and GearHungry.com.
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SLMan are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease – including mental health issues. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any health-related programme or treatment.