As a child, the holidays are magical — the lights, the songs, the warmth of your family around you. But as an adult, it can feel like the magic has morphed into frenzy, noise, and Uncle Frank telling you how to live your life and raise your kids.
The good news is, that childhood cheer doesn’t have to disappear. With the right tools to preserve your wellbeing and navigate potential family conflicts, you can recapture that warmth and enjoy the season to the fullest.
Here are 5 strategies for keeping the peace during the holidays:
1. MAINTAIN YOUR SELF-CARE ROUTINE
It’s easy to lose yourself in the demands of the holiday season, especially if you’re playing host to the whole family. When that happens, self-care is one of the first things to fall by the wayside, and things that don’t usually bother you start to get under your skin. So before you start planning holiday get-togethers, make sure you’ve set aside time and space to properly take care of yourself even when hosting. Make a plan to:
- Maintain a good sleep schedule
- Keep up with an exercise routine, even if it’s simply a daily walk
- Set aside some time each day to relax
Once you’ve made sure those basics are covered, continue listening to your own needs throughout the season. Being aware of what you need and making sure you are mentally and physically rested will equip you to better take care of others.
Take care of yourself during the crazy busy Holiday season!
2. LOWER CONSUMPTION
When conflict and stress start bubbling up, many turn to food and drink to calm their frayed nerves. While that may work in the short term, excessive drinking and eating will only make you feel worse and increase anxiety in the long term.
While people often turn to alcohol to reduce stress, it actually increases anxiety and decreases self-control. Anxiety Canada notes that “the more you drink, the more alcohol affects the brain, and negative emotions can start to take over.”
Try decreasing the amount of alcohol available at your gatherings. Instead of bottles of wine or liquor, plan for low or alcohol-free punches, eggnogs and ciders that are equally festive and delicious.
When it comes to food, overeating is often viewed as an integral part of the holidays, but it can cause problems beyond seasonal weight gain.
Overeating also causes spikes in blood sugar, followed by lows that increase fatigue and slow down brain activity — especially if the meal is full of empty calories from refined sugars and carbohydrates. Shifts in blood sugar are known to cause mood swings too, resulting in irritability, aggression, nervousness and lack of focus — all of which can exacerbate friction, stress and conflict.
By offering lighter, healthier dishes along with traditional comfort foods, you not only take care of your loved ones’ hunger, but also foster harmony at the family table.
3. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
Whatever is happening at the table, there is always something positive to focus on. Human’s inherent negativity bias means that we focus more on the negative things that are going on around us than on the more positive things. A negative comment in the middle of a holiday celebration can have an exaggerated effect on our mood.
Gratitude is one of the most effective means of fighting that inherent negativity bias. By intentionally expressing gratitude for the people and events in your life, you can increase both your own happiness as well as that of your guests. As a bonus, gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression, which can help you avoid testy exchanges and arguments.
To help your whole party stay on the same, positive track:
- Come up with ideas to keep people on positive topics
- Share stories that people can enjoy
- Take a tip from the Thanksgiving tradition and ask people to list what they’re grateful for this holiday season
4. PREPARE FOR DISAGREEMENTS
Gathering a group of people who may only see each other once a year is bound to cause a few disagreements. Prepare for conflict beforehand by:
- Planning seating arrangements carefully
- Preparing something to say to distract from hot-button topics
- Offering lighthearted games to keep people busy
- Learning how to de-escalate conflicts
5. MAINTAIN RESPECT
When tempers flare, attacks on opinions can become very personal. It’s important to view each guest and family member as a whole person with individual hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations. Aim not to change who they are or attack their beliefs, but to find out why they think and feel the way they do. Then, everyone can feel like they are being heard and respected.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes conflicts happen. If you continue to feel down as a result, or for other reasons during the holiday season, use Medisys On-Demand to instantly connect with a healthcare professional from the comfort of your home, any time of day. Click here to learn more.