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Protecting Your Peace Over the Holidays: A Guide to Visiting Family

We are officially in the thick of the holiday season, when families are preparing to gather together and celebrate. For many this marks a joyous time of year - but for some, gathering with family they haven’t seen in a while may bring on stress and anxiety. 

Whether it be a family member who has caused you trauma or a relative who asks just a few too many questions about your personal life, we’ve created a guide to visiting family over the holidays without losing your mind. Read more for our top five tips on protecting your peace this holiday season.

Set a positive tone

Once you are in a positive mindset, it will become easier to influence others to follow suit. It is hard to pick a fight with someone who is being wholeheartedly positive. Before seeing your family, get yourself in the best mindset possible. Taking a few moments to settle any nerves, or plan for how you will react if someone says something uncouth can prevent a potential disaster at the dinner table. 

Aim for kind over nice

There is real meaning in the saying “kill them with kindness’. Taking the high road is a powerful move. You do not have to be overly warm or bubbly if you don’t wish to be, but a calm “hello, how are have you been” and remaining neutral when someone tries to get a rise out of you can go a long way in keeping the peace during family gatherings. 

Here are some key factors of being kind over nice.

  • Nice is staying quiet when someone makes an offensive joke, kind is gracefully telling them “I don’t find that very funny”
  • Nice is agreeing to something you don’t want to seem easygoing, kind is saying no, but offering to do something you are comfortable with.
  • Nice is saying something you don’t really mean to keep the peace, kind is stating your opinion in a calm and collected way, with no intention of hurting someone else.

You can be a kind person, without allowing anyone to take advantage of your kindness. 

Repeat affirmations

Affirmations are a great way to enter a state of peace and well-being. Before you see guests that may cause you distress, repeat a few that set a calm, positive tone for you. A few to consider are:

  • Wherever I go, I am well
  • I release the past and embrace the future
  • I’ve done this before, I can do it again
  • I  accept myself, and that’s all that matters
  • The opinions of others do not define me

Accept them for who they are

We cannot change people, trying to “fix” the other person will be fruitless more often than not. 

Even if someone in your life irritates or triggers you, accepting them for who they are is a weight off your shoulders. Understand that nobody is perfect, and everyone has imperfections.

Avoid imposing unrealistic expectations on others

Manage Your Expectations

Managing our expectations is a crucial part of keeping the peace during the holiday season. 

Be honest with yourself, if someone is set in their ways it is unlikely a major breakthrough will take place with their behavior. Make peace with the fact that they may not change. This way, you can let go of your desire that their behavior will change and truly enjoy being present in the moment. 

Cultivate Open-Mindedness 

Be open to different perspectives and ways of life, instead of dwelling on someone's perceived flaws, focus on their positive qualities.

  • Acknowledge and appreciate the strengths they bring to relationships and interactions.
  • Be willing to learn from others and expand your own understanding.
  • Embrace the opportunity for personal growth that comes from interacting with people who have different backgrounds and experiences.

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries is a crucial part of maintaining healthy relationships and personal well-being. It involves clearly defining the limits of acceptable behavior, both for yourself and others. Setting boundaries is not a sign of selfishness, but rather an important component of self-care.

Set time limits

If you’re able to, try to set time limits for your outings. If you are going over to someone’s home, suggest driving in a separate car, or arranging for a graceful exit, like excusing yourself early to tend to a different obligation. 

If people are coming over to your home, be sure to divide your attention equally among guests, and command the flow of the evening. Brainstorm the method you will use to gently let guests know it's time to head home. 

Use your voice

Don’t hesitate to say that your weight, job, living situation, or partner is off-limits. There is a way to do this in a calm, cordial way.  

  • Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from harmful conversations, a simple “I would prefer not to speak about that” works great. 
  • Be honest with family you feel safe with, a heart-to-heart conversation can go a long way. 
  • If a certain topic has repeatedly been a source of contention, consider making a disclaimer before you even see relatives. You can send a text message stating your boundaries. 

An example of this could look like this: “Hi Aunt Maisha, my partner will be coming to the holiday party tonight. I ask that you please refrain from mentioning their appearance or how they dress. Thank you, look forward to seeing you!

Prioritize self-care

If seeing family triggers you, be sure to prioritize your mental health during this time. Take small moments during the holiday season for alone time, so you can recharge your social battery. 

Journal

Journal about your anxieties, or frustrations. Taking it out on paper saves you from taking it out on the person. Some prompts to consider during this time are:

  •  How do you want to feel this week?
  • What are you most defensive about?
  • What is something you are tolerating that you do not want to be?
  • What is something you have come to peace with? 

(Taken from our Dig Deeper Journal

Schedule alone time

There is no shame in needing a break from others. Alone time is a great opportunity to recharge, reflect, and reset. Some ways to get much-needed alone time are getting up before your family members and going on a walk, going to a cafe to read or do work, or going for a long drive solo. 

Notice all the good of the season

Give thanks for all the good things you have, despite difficult family dynamics. Even including your family is a way to stay away from tense situations and focus on the true meaning of the holidays. Focus on all the glimmers of the holiday season.  Are there any aspects of the holidays you truly enjoy? Things like:

  • Seeing holiday lights 
  • Baking 
  • Family or friend traditions
  • A change in weather 
  • Vacations or travel 
  • Buying or making gifts for others

When a family member is upset with us

Sometimes a family member or loved one may have an issue with us. We recommend fostering open communication where people feel heard and understood. Resolve conflicts through dialogue rather than judgment. There are a couple of action items you can do to extend an opportunity to mend things. 

Have the hard conversation

Having a conversation with someone who is upset with you can be challenging, but it's important to address the issue and work toward a resolution. Here are some tips for navigating such a conversation:

  • Stay calm, and approach the conversation with a calm and composed demeanor. Avoid reacting defensively or with anger.
  • Set the right time and place, and find a quiet and private place to talk where you won't be interrupted. Choose a time when both of you can have a focused and uninterrupted conversation.
  • Listen and acknowledge their feelings, start by acknowledging the other person's emotions. Let the other person express their feelings without interrupting
  • Apologize sincerely, if you are at fault, offer a sincere apology. Acknowledge the specific actions or words that caused the issue.

Come bearing gifts

If there is a person in your life you want to make amends with, consider bringing them a small gift. Consider gifting something unique to them, or bring over a conversation deck so you can bond while steering discussions away from anything too heated or triggering. 

Let them in on the fun

Inviting people into your activities can be a way to extend an olive branch and shift attitudes in a positive way. There are plenty of ways to engage over the holidays.

  • Invite them on an errand you are running
  • Bring a gingerbread house or craft you can do together
  • Offer to do something festive and fun like seeing holiday lights or going tree shopping

The key is to invite them to do something fun that is low-conflict. Even if they decline, knowing you wanted them there can go a long way in making amends. 

Takeaways

Holidays can come with more stress than we’d like, but you have the power to navigate unsavory family relationships with a calm demeanor. 

  • Start on a positive foot
  • Accept what you cannot change about the person or situation
  • Set boundaries with your family members
  • Take good care of yourself during the holidays
  • Use the holiday season as an opportunity to mend things with those you love

We wish you a very happy holiday season. Tell us, what are you most looking forward to this year? Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more content for a better you.

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