All of the holiday hassles can bring us to our tipping point. As you work on navigating the holiday craze and reuniting with family members, here are some tips to help you keep your cool and move through the challenges with more ease.
- Set clear boundaries.
Very few were taught how to set boundaries and there are a lot of ‘how to’ guides out there. It isn’t simply saying no or speaking up for yourself though. Boundaries are supposed to help us protect and honor our needs and values while communicating that we will not accept a certain behavior and should the person choose to continue, we tell them what WE will do in response.
As an example, if at a chaotic family dinner, a family member is being hateful indirectly towards you, you would say something to this effect: “I feel attacked when you say things like that, going forward, please do not discuss this topic when I am around, if you do, I will leave.
Make sure the consequences that you set are ones that you are willing and able to uphold every time. Be patient, and honor the effort, some people take a little longer to adjust to the new expectation than others. If they are making progress, even in hindsight, make sure you acknowledge it.
- Give yourself space.
It can get overwhelming quickly, especially if you are in a crowded area. When possible, make an effort to step away as soon as you notice yourself beginning to feel overwhelmed, and take a few moments to breathe and appreciate the silence. I never put my daughter in time-out when she was young, instead, I put myself in time-out when I felt overwhelmed and the frustration mounting and heading towards a blow-up. If you need a time-out, take it. It helps to prevent overreactions, snapping, and yelling, which often just amplifies and escalates a situation.
- Process externally.
If you find that you have a lot of obsessive type thoughts or ruminating thoughts in your head that won’t go away, including replaying situations over and over again, or disaster planning scenarios, grab a pen and paper and get to writing. You can also call a trusted person, record a video, or use speak-to-text to get it all out, but whatever you do, let it out so you can start to let it go.
- Focus on one thing at a time.
It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of tasks that need to get done, but realistically- we can only do one task at a time, so focus on the one thing in front of you, and move down the list as you go. Delegate where you can, and organize your list by the amount of cognitive effort, starting with the tasks that will require the most focus and thought, and leaving the easier tasks for the end of the day when your cognitive resources have been depleted. If you are feeling depleted early in the day, grab a small healthy snack and go for a short walk, that might be just what you need to give yourself another boost of energy.
- Honor your needs.
There are several types of needs that we each have, from our physiological needs to our safety, belonging, and esteem needs, each will make themselves known if they are neglected, and it’s easy to focus on the chaos and forget to eat or drink water regularly, so pay attention to your body and your reactions and let it tell you what needs are begging to be met in the moment. If you are new to the idea of personal needs, check out the first boundary post [here] where I discuss each section of needs and how to find yours.
- Don’t take it personally.
It’s not fun to be on the receiving end of judgment, but don’t take it personally. Remember that judgment is simply someone else’s preferences that are being projected onto you. You don’t have to meet their preferences or expectations. You get to do life your way, it is yours to live after all!
- Use a touchstone.
In moments of chaos, it can be helpful to have a designated object that you can put your focus on to act as a reminder to breathe, eat, drink water, take a time out, or honor your needs and boundaries. It is best to use an object that you will always have with you and that you see or notice regularly. It can be a ring, a necklace that you like to play with, a watch, etc. Every time you notice the object, affirm what it is you want it to be a reminder of, and over time it will become unconsciously embedded into your mind so you automatically recall the state you were trying to access without any effort expended. In NLP we call this an anchor.
- Manage your expectations.
I have personally had a lot of challenges when it comes to my expectations. I was always quick to anger when my expectations weren’t met, but ironically, most of the time they were either unrealistic or never communicated to anyone. Expectations often run in our unconscious minds and we have limited awareness of them unless we choose to be more intentional about it. My time in the military taught me that expectation management was the key to my happiness. I would often get frustrated when an order was published with a timeline and plan included that was supposed to be followed, but it rarely ever went down that way. It seems strange but I was much less stressed and way happier when I stopped expecting the plan to be followed and just started expecting things to be wonky and haphazard as everyone tried to get the mission accomplished. By doing so, it gave me more space to be pleasantly surprised when things went smoothly. Now, I’m not saying expect the worst or anything like that, I just mean to hold space and be curious about how things will unfold. If there’s something that you need then communicate what it is you need with those that need to know, instead of expecting them to know that it is important to you. The more we communicate with others, the more they can step up and support us.
- Plan for the best, not the worst.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, ‘Plan for the worst, hope for the best.’ Well, it’s not quite right. Instead, I want to encourage you to look at the best-case scenario and notice what you can do in your efforts to plan to ensure that the outcome is a success. What do you need to put into place to ensure that the best-case scenarios are the only ones that could be the result?
- Find the little moments of joy.
Don’t get lost in your head over the holidays. Put the binoculars down and turn your attention to the present moment. When you stop focusing so much on what is going to happen in the future or what will need to be done, you can find those little moments of joy in your day. It helps so much and when you look back on this holiday season, you will have much more fond memories than ones of stress. If you need to plan, set aside time to do so, then allow yourself to be in each moment instead of in your mind.
I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday season and find these tips helpful as you navigate the chaos ahead. Every Friday from 11 am to 2 pm CST I will have space open in my calendar for 20 min vent sessions. This is a safe space for you to get anything you need, off of your chest, so you can find your center again and move forward. You can use the link here to schedule it with me through Zoom.