As the holidays get closer, many of us get excited for big meals, gift sharing, and more. However, for others, the holidays may bring increased anxiety or added stress due to family conflicts, large gatherings, and uncomfortable situations. There are ways to avoid, or at least lessen some of these sources of stress. As a counselor, I frequently run into clients seeking guidance about how to create a cohesive family gathering for the holidays. Even though they initially feel powerless in the face of unruly family members, it is possible to take control of the situation in a positive and productive way. I highly recommend trying the following tips this holiday season to make it your best one yet!
For any anxiety producing situation, I encourage my clients to consciously acknowledge how they are feeling in that moment. Do not fake or hide your emotions; these emotions are a part of you. Recognizing how you are feeling helps ensure that these feelings do not take over your entire day. You can also try doing this for your family and friends: acknowledge how they might be feeling, or, if you know they are feeling a certain way, respect their feelings and give space or comfort when necessary. This is essential in creating a positive space during a holiday gathering.
A simple step towards promoting a more cohesive gathering is putting your phone away. By unplugging, you will be more open to conversations and experiences with those around you. Phones can cause distractions and potentially more anxiety or unwanted feelings due to other people’s posts or comments on social media. I always suggest putting your phone on silent or leaving it in a specific place during the gathering.
A holiday gathering or party will never be cohesive if you are not fully present. I encourage all of my clients to set an intention of being fully engaged in their conversations and experiences with others. Although some conversations may be more difficult or even slightly uncomfortable, truly listen to what the other person has to say. By being present and effectively listening, you will create a positive environment around you. This will in turn positively affect others.
The holidays are a time to have fun with family and friends. Even if you anticipate minor conflicts, keep the gathering upbeat! I recommend inclusive games for everyone at the gathering to participate in. These are simple ways to avoid stressful conversations, like politics or religion. Also, by splitting into teams, you can bring family members or friends together. This can create cohesion through a common goal. Remember, always keep the game positive and fun. If you feel that the game is taking a negative turn, switch the game or teams, or take a break.
As always, I encourage my clients to hold onto a positive mindset through any experience. Your positivity will spread to those around you. By doing so, the party or gathering will be more enjoyable for all. Sometimes, the time around the holidays can bring up painful memories, but by focusing on the positive aspects of your life and the lives of those around you, you can savor this time with family and friends.
Although the holidays can be difficult, I am here to help you through these moments and even aid you in creating a more positive environment for your loved ones. Spending time with family and friends is important. Do not let past family conflicts or opposing opinions get in the way of that. Don’t hesitate to call your local Manhattan Beach counselor today. Let’s create a positive experience and environment for the holidays together!