Keeping the “Happy” in “Happy Holidays”—The Practical Side

Last month I wrote about damage control and managing conflict. I have found that many of my clients (and friends) have to deal with more interpersonal conflict and damage control than usual during the holiday season.  This is because the holidays are a time when we are expected to spend time with family members. And, let’s face it, most of us have a difficult relationship with at least one family member.

Fortunately, there are several ways to not only manage interpersonal conflict, but actually prevent it.  Here are some simple things you can do to prevent a drama-filled holiday season.

1) Avoidance: Sometimes the easiest way to prevent conflict is simply to not spend any time with the person with whom you have issues. There is freedom in saying “no” to engagements that you feel will create more stress than joy in your life. Other parties may be upset when you decline their invitations.  However, I have found that the initial stress of saying no is so worth NOT having to spend extended time with the people who ruffle my feathers.

2) Plan: If you decide you will visit with people who have hurt you emotionally in the past, you should plan your visit. First, I highly recommend having a “canned answer” to any hot topic you do not wish to discuss with them. You might say, “It sounds like you want to talk about _____. I really do not want to talk about that today.” Wait for them to change the topic or try to do so yourself. If they keep talking about politics, religion, etc., just keep quiet. They cannot talk to themselves forever.

Second, keep it short. Try to spend limited time with people you have had trouble with in the past.

Third, if possible, pick a neutral location to meet. People are more likely to get along in a neutral space instead of someone’s house. With highly difficult people you probably do not want them in your house and visiting their home may make them feel they have more right to share their thoughts freely. Think home team advantage.

3) Engage in self-care:  If you are going to be around people who may negatively impact your emotional state, plan to care for yourself before and after the engagement. Try to spend time before your visit meditating or praying. Review what you will say and do. When the visit is over, engage in something that will renew your sense of peace. For example, have a cup of tea, listen to soothing music, etc.

Self-care is important all year, but especially during the holiday season. The holidays are a stressful time of year for many people for a variety of reasons—financial hardship, loss of family members, anniversary dates, family conflict, etc. If you are feeling anxious, depressed or stressed due to the holiday season and/or difficult life relationships a licensed mental health counselor can help you. Managing stress and conflict are essential to emotional health and a trained therapist can help you learn the skills to do so.  Give yourself the gift of self-care this holiday season and make an appointment with an experienced counselor. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862.


Yolanda Brailey