With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner (where did this year go?) the holidays are regarded as a time for family togetherness and closeness. In reality, all that togetherness can create stress and conflict. Who can relate?
“There’s an implicit pressure around the holidays,” Greenpoint-based mindfulness expert Ralph De La Rosa, author of the meditation book “The Monkey Is the Messenger,” tells The Post. “We often feel we have to impress our families or somehow prove ourselves.”
To prepare yourself for tense talks at the table, he recommends starting your day with an exercise called the 5-3-1-1: While lying in bed, take five deep breaths. Then, picture three things you’re grateful for. Smile once and hold for 15 seconds — long enough for the facial expression to trigger your brain to release feel-good serotonin.
Here is another great article on mindfulness techniques to help out during this holiday season. Please be sure to take a few minutes to read it!
Here are seven things you can do to help ease the family tension this holiday season:
1. Pick off-peak times to travel and celebrate.
Traveling at peak times — whether it's your journey or your in-laws' — will cause lots of tension and subsequent crankiness in everyone. You are really just setting yourself up for disaster. So, pick off-days to travel and be together, even if it means not celebrating Thanksgiving Day with them, but instead the day after. The added relaxation you feel will be more important in the long run.
2. Less is more.
Come to a consensus on the number of days you think you can all tolerate being under the same roof — and stick to it. It's better to end up wanting more time than to feel like you want to throw your guests out, or vice versa. My dad always says "Guests are like fish. They're good for about three days".
And not just guests where less is more, but this could also be less food, alcohol, spending money, etc...
3. Create healthy boundaries.
The holidays are a good time to set boundaries. That’s because there are a lot more demands coming from all directions. This might include everything from buying gifts and sending cards to traveling and attending get-togethers to hosting people — just to name a few.
By setting boundaries, you’re able to focus on the real meaning of the holidays: gratitude, spiritual traditions and family togetherness.
A boundary is simply a “dividing line,” In psychological terms, it’s a catch-phrase meaning setting limits or asserting your thoughts, feelings, and needs even when these are in opposition to the person with whom you’re interacting.
Honor your needs during the holiday season. Create happy memories for yourself. Check out more from the "NOT LIST"!
4. Pick your battles.
When it comes to health, safety and basic family values, you really need to hold your ground. However, other family relationships really are important, so try to compromise on some matters. Let your relatives do some things their way to show them you respect them, too.
5. Work out disagreements ahead of time (or agree to not bring up the issue).
If trouble is brewing before the holiday, try to resolve the problem over the phone before the get-together to avoid a blowup for all to see.
6. Prepare some cool one-liners.
You know your sister is coming and she's going to say, "Gee you look like you gained a little weight this year." Come up with some lines that you can have that don't strike back — are not attacking — but where you set a limit. "You know what? Let's talk about happy and nice things today. Let's not drag up this stuff. What do you say?" Of course, some of this is an over-simplification, but going in with boundaries set and feeling confident will help avoid conflict.
7. Recognize the value in all your family relationships.
Try to be attentive to all your family relationships in between holidays, so that hurt and resentment don't build up in between visits. That way, holiday gatherings will not be burdened with excessive expectations, and everyone can truly relax.
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