Holidays and family gatherings can be an opportunity to spend quality time with family, appreciate our blessings and celebrate life. Family get-togethers can also aggravate stress, anxiety and create conflict. While we may be grateful to have time with loved ones, we may experience feelings of grief, regret, or resentments from old wounds. Challenging relationships or personal circumstances, traveling, and financial concerns can also trigger emotions that make celebrations feel like negative obligations.
To minimize distress, we can choose to control our thoughts and emotions about family engagements through simple actions. While emotions and thoughts are frequently instantaneous reactions to perceptions of a situation, it is a choice how long we allow ourselves to experience these challenging feelings.
Next holiday season or family get-together, commit to practicing these strategies to create an atmosphere of connectivity and joy.
1. Be mindful of and in control of your emotions.
Acknowledge your feelings but choose not to ruminate on negative emotions. Envision your mind as a radio station. If you find yourself focused on negative thoughts, change the station. Practice shifting your thoughts to positive memories or refocus your attention to something pleasant. Changing your thoughts can be as simple as changing a radio channel to a better station.
2. Be an observer.
Be an observer in the room at family events. Observe communication, social interactions or family dynamics. By observing others from a bird's eye perspective, we place ourselves in a learning mode rather than a reactive role. Observing stressful environments helps us realize that we are not forced to feel or react in any preset manner. Shakespeare stated "All the world is a stage and all the men and women are merely players with exits and entrances". Choose your role as an observer and enjoy being in the audience.
3. Learn to step away and breathe.
Research proves that controlled breathing changes the physical and emotional state of the body. Take a moment to yourself and breathe deeply for five to ten minutes. Listen to relaxing music or close your eyes for a short period. Give your mind a moment to recharge so being present and relaxed is easier.
4. Focus on the positive.
Too often we allow ourselves to be caught up in negativity or other’s emotions and actions. Try observing what is good and joyful in the room. We are responsible for our own happiness.
5. Practice the art of forgiveness.
Holding onto to past hurts negatively impacts us mentally and physically. Learn to forgive or accept others as they are. Acceptance of others allows us the freedom to be who we are. Resentments and anger contributes to poor health and denies us of the opportunity to experience joy. Forgiving others helps us forgive ourselves for our own imperfections.
6. Embrace generosity.
The act of giving is a highly effective tool in changing our mood. Generosity is not primarily about monetary exchanges. Seek ways to be helpful and kind in your actions when at family gatherings. Offer to help with tasks or keeping an eye on the kids. It is possible you may find joy in the preparations or playing with the children. Ask others about their lives, be interested in sharing stories or offer to pick up a forgotten item to grab a quick break.
Learn that small acts of kindness allow us to experience the joy of giving.
7. Be a teacher.
"The life you live is the lesson you teach". Consider that you are modeling to others how to interact gracefully in social environments. Whether you have small children, or elderly parents, it is never too late to become the model citizen in the room. Remember, it’s not how you come in, it’s how you go out…
Choosing actions that support positive, healthy thoughts around family gatherings, make us less likely to be reactive, use substances, or behave in manners we regret. 8. Choose to create new memories. Once we can step out of the past, we can free ourselves to have experiences that create memories of joy. Remember that others in the family may feel anxious as well and will benefit from improvements in family interactions. Be the change you want to see. There is never a wrong time to make better choices or commit to leading the pack in a positive direction.
Family dinners, parties with friends, gift exchanges, potluck meals — the holidays are one celebration after another. It can be a lot of additional work on top of everything else you have going on, especially when you’re playing host or hostess.
After all, celebrating should be fun right? So let’s jump right into our favorite holiday party planning tips.
Host a Game Night
Christmas trivia, old fashioned card games, all those board games you played as kids―any and all games are welcome! It allows everyone to just have a relaxed day of fun. All you have to do is add some snacks and drinks for a good old time!
Host a Retro Christmas Party
Enjoy a Christmas Brunch
Whether you cook a big brunch on Christmas Day like Ree does, or you host one at your house the weekend before, gathering your loved ones for the most delicious meal of all will be so much fun. Add Ree's eggs Benedict strata or her famous cinnamon rolls to the menu.
There are tons of options to bring the spirit of the season to the table, and of course there is Dinner Thyme! We can bring the party to you, plated dinners, cooking classes, live entertainment and much more.
Cheers, and have a great weekend!