How to survive the holidays

3 mins read
Turkey Eating Pie. by GraphicMama-team (pixabay.com). Public domain.

Step 1: Preparation

Do your homework ahead of time. Read the room and prepare for your audience, locate all exits. Understand if you there is any previous unresolved conflict and either find ways to ameliorate this issue beforehand or find ways to avoid conversation on certain topics.

If you are in a friendly atmosphere, by all means enjoy. But sometimes going to a holiday dinner means that you’re going into hostile territory. This means you may have to plan breaks or determine what appropriate times to leave, and setting up boundaries ahead of time when to go before things become out of hand.

Try your best to leave on a high note (hopefully). Sometimes it is best to leave early and on a high note than just leave when the party ends (think George Costanza in Seinfeld).

George Costanza leaves on a high note

In certain circumstances, it might be in your best interests to go for dessert only.

Step 2: Self-Regulation

Remember, you’re not your emotion. Attempt to use mindfulness exercises in vivo. Just witness the emotion, do not act on it with a sense of urgency. If you have the feeling of anger and/or anxiety, you are allowed to take a break or leave.

Find ways to relax ahead of time. Practice meditation or deep breathing techniques for 10 minutes before entering. You’ll be surprised how a calm state can change the way you interpret your environment.

Also, be careful on how much booze you’re drinking. Alcohol causes disinhibition and negatively impacts judgment.

Understanding the art of Acceptance. Don’t try to change family or convince folks of ways to change. This will only invoke reactance (when a choice of an option is threatened, they get an unpleasant feeling – think being tailgated and you slowing down purposely). You’re not going to win any votes at the dinner table. You’re there to participate in a family tradition. That’s the mission. Stay on course.

Step 3: Processing and Decompressing

You did it. Well done. Now is time for you to find a trusted friend, companion or a relative to decompress with afterwards. Maybe go for a walk or find a yoga class.

Throw on the Two Broads Talking Politics podcast. Watch some football. Play your de-stressing greatest hits. Try to make note of as many positive interactions as possible and celebrate the little victories.


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Bryan is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Massachusetts, in private practice, serving the Wellesley, Newton and Boston areas.

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