5 Strategies for Healthy Holiday Relationships

Except for you and me, there’s a world of dysfunctional folks out there, and they all seem to have been invited to the same party we’re attending, right?  Just kidding!  In truth, there are bound to be occasional challenges in those holiday gatherings.  At least a few clashes in personalities, perspectives, and ways of being are bound to occur, no matter how much you enjoy or love the ones you’re with.  While you can’t control anyone but yourself, all everyone wants is an enjoyable relaxing time together. Consider one or more of these strategies to do your part into keeping things joyful, even in those moments when you may not feel like adoring anybody:

Release Expectations
What if this special event isn’t perfect in every way you imagine it could or should be? Let the day’s event…. and everyone involved in it…. be who they are and what it is. Simply be present with it. No tradition is going to turn out exactly like another, and it doesn’t need to. Instead of working hard to manipulate it, just keep an open positive attitude and embrace the moments for what they are.

Gratitude & Compassion
Everyone wants to be appreciated, heard, and included.  They (and we!) sometimes have rather awkward ways of going about it, which can be uncomfortable for others, especially when it’s very different from what we recognize as ‘normal’.  Accepting folks right where they are instead of trying to mold them to what’s “expected” for an occasion is a generous and compassionate approach to difficulties others might be struggling with, such as missing a recently deceased or distant loved one, being in a strange place they may not feel comfortable in, or just being an introvert out of their element in a crowd.  Find gratitude for their presence, the gift they are, or what they contribute to the group in some small way. It takes a lot less energy and effort than struggling against those issues you can’t change, easing those tensions and triggers for both yourself and your friends to ensure you all have a more relaxed and pleasant time together.

Intention and Fun
Think of how you would LIKE the event or day to unfold.  Games? Activities? Upbeat conversations? Finding common interests that create laughter and opportunity for deeper connections are a great way to bring interest and invite willing engagement. Create and stay focused on a positive mindset that puts you in the driver’s seat on the environment around you.  Inevitably, you’ll inspire the same in others, keeping it light and fun. Ignore spoilers and engage with those who are open to your intentions to empower them to help create that fun time you all really hope and intend to enjoy.

Space and Boundaries
Compassion only goes so far with some out-of-bounds behaviors.  If the kids get wild, or someone’s negative energy becomes too much, it’s a good opportunity to set some boundaries.  No, you don’t have an obligation to subject yourself to unbearable or abusive behavior!  One way is to speak up and suggest a change (to parents first, if it’s a kid thing) or shift to another more positive tack. If that doesn’t work, disengage.  Sometimes the best response is no response at all, allowing silence to speak and give you space.  Step away and separate yourself from the negative behaviors to protect your energy and personal boundaries.  Anticipate potential irritants and be diligent in avoiding or minimizing your time spent around them.

Shake A Leg, Get some Air
Fresh air and movement gets the blood flowing to help clear mind, body, and spirit for everyone, whether for fun or relaxation  Making time in your gathering to get outdoors for a game of tag or ball is great way to reconnect and expend excess energy – or calories if you’ve had a big meal!  If some quiet time and space is what you need, a walk or stroll, alone or with a few others, will be a good break to lift your spirits, re-energize, and refresh to bring you closer to those intentions on your enjoyment of the holiday.

We all long for and look forward to a fun holiday time with friends and family. The holidays are definitely not a time to try to change anyone else, and really, our differences are part of the experience.  Bring your authentic self to the table with openness, awareness, and some of these strategies.  It can make all the difference in celebrating the season in togetherness, welcoming, and bringing understanding into our relationships for a fresh beginning in the new year.  May you embrace each opportunity for your relationships to grow sweeter and stronger in this holiday season and the year ahead.

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