Ahhh, the holidays… such a cozy, loving time of year when the whole family gets together to enjoy delicious food, festive drinks, and great company.
But as you sit across from Uncle Ted at the dinner table and he starts grilling you about your political stance, and your second cousin Sam is next to you, telling you all about his latest paleo-diet – and wait... is Great-Grandma Nancy shooting your kids dirty looks as they build mashed potato volcanoes on their plates?
Ahh, the holidays. Such a magical, family-PACKED time of year, isn’t it?
Family conflict is no joke
While visiting loved ones is truly wonderful and should be cherished, it can also stir up tension and stress – after all, packing the whole family around the dinner table is bound to bring up a disagreement... or ten. ;)
To help you keep your family gathering as jolly as can be, we have a few stress-relieving and conflict management techniques that will not only help you keep your loved ones focussed on the good vibes and positive atmosphere, but also help YOU calm yourself despite what’s happening around you!
Tips for self-soothing and relieving stress
First things first, let’s start with some stress-relief tips for YOU! Just like you should put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help anyone else, so should you be managing your OWN stress before you seek to help others!
Tip 1: Focus on the positive
The most important part of managing stress and negative emotions at any social gathering is to try your hardest to focus on the positive and be grateful. Before ‘showtime’, take a moment to meditate and think about all the great reasons you love about this time of year and about seeing family.
Remind yourself of the wonderful things happening right now and be thankful for them! Did you get a nice chunk of time off for the holidays? Perhaps you received a Christmas bonus? Do you like the outfit you’re wearing? What about the food at the party?
Try to look for as many reasons as you can to help change your viewpoint towards the positive. In this way, you’re setting your ‘lens’, i.e., your frame of mind to see the bright side. You may be surprised at how quickly your mood brightens! The best part is, that light and happiness emanating from you is contagious… so keep smiling, beauty!
–> Read more about how to focus on the positive in The 5-Step Happiness Challenge
Tip 2: Keep consumption under control
Now hear us out. We aren’t saying you can’t have a good time and blow off some steam with some delicious festive drinks! We do love our champagne and rosé for any good social gathering ;) The trick with this one is trying not to self-medicate with food and/or alcohol in an attempt to relax and take the edge off.
–> Try to drink 1 glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have. This has the great bonus-benefit of keeping you properly hydrated, which, as we know, keeps your body (and your hair, of course) looking and feeling great!
Tip 3: Remove yourself from the situation
If all else fails, and you’re struggling to ‘keep calm and carry on’, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with stepping out of the room to gather yourself. A good excuse for removing yourself from any situation is that you need to use the bathroom – no one will question that! Unless you’re leaving every 5 minutes, then Aunt Darlene might start heckling you about your small bladder. ;)
Tips for keeping family time a happy time
Now onto the beloved family and other loved ones! Below are some tips on how to keep the energy at your social gathering positive, while avoiding unnecessary negative feelings between guests. Keep in mind the point of this exercise is not to avoid all those heavier or deeper topics but to instead focus on what’s important at the moment, i.e.: spending quality time with your loved ones!
Tip 1: Keep the conversation focussed on positive topics
Come up with some positive topic ideas, or tell a funny, upbeat story – or better yet, ask your family and friends to tell you what’s going on in their lives that they’re happy about and thankful for. Much like focussing on the positive in your own life, you can pull people into a more positive frame of mind when you get them talking about the good things happening in their lives!
Tip 2: Suggest playing a game to keep people occupied
Distraction is a clever tool you can use to keep family and friends focussed on something other than talking for a while! Fun little games also help break the ice, especially when loved ones haven’t seen one another for a while. Make sure to have some games on hand – or think up some other ones to keep people having a fun and easy-going time, or, to stir up some friendly competition that ends in belly-laughs!
Tip 3: Create a seating arrangement
Sometimes it’s inevitable that a couple of folks won’t enjoy the other too much, and so to help make sure no one’s time is soured, a subtlely arranged seating plan can help you move parties away from each other to avoid any remarks or icy-glances. If you’re not hosting the party, you could even offer to sit between people you know don’t get along.
Remember, you can only control yourself!
All conflict management aside, it’s important to remind yourself that you can only control yourself, despite how much effort you put in to make others’ holiday time better. The most important takeaway for you is to know that you are great the way you are and that you deserve to have a lovely holiday gathering with your loved ones!
Family time truly is precious and if we can look past other’s faults and try to make the best of scenarios to keep holiday time, happier!