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How to Confidently Handle Festive Family Friction

How to Confidently Handle Festive Family Friction

A festive scene, but what happens if your family are causing stress and anxiety?
    Help me Steve! The kids, my husband, getting the house ready, the cooking, the shopping plus full-time work – I’ve got everything to do for Christmas, I’m already running around like a mad thing and time’s fast running out! Plus my husband’s parents are coming over for the first time and I don’t get on with his Mum at all. So Christmas Day itself is going to be a huge amount of work and while I’ll probably enjoy it I know I’ll get stressed out. What can I do to make it more magical and less stressful?”

    – Vicky in London

    This is an email I received the other day that’s typical of many I receive at this time of year, and my own Christmas is promising to be an interesting one.

    My recently-out gay nephew is bringing his Eastern European partner to meet my family, including my bordering-on-homophobic, anti-immigrant father, and my sister’s ex-husband is coming along for the first time in 7 years, having split from his new partner who’s spending Christmas with their daughter.

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    It feels like I’m in an episode of Eastenders.

    I’m sure that a lot of you will be sharing some seasonal anxiety too, so here are my tips for confidently handing a family Christmas.

    1. Adjust your expectations.

    If you expect everything to be perfect and to go like clockwork, you’re going to get stressed, angry and upset when that doesn’t happen – you’re setting yourself up for a big disappointment.

    If you have unrealistic expectations make sure you shift them before things can get stressful.

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    Change your expectations so you expect the odd hiccup, and choose to laugh about them rather than stress about them – laughter goes a long way.

    2. Go with the flow.

    The tree doesn’t have to have every bauble hung perfectly, the roast potatoes don’t have to be like Gordon Ramsay’s and you don’t have to be the perfect host. Relax, step back and recognise what’s important about Christmas for you.

    What is it that makes Christmas special and magical? I guarantee it’s nothing to do with how many cheeses are on the cheese board or whether dinner is half an hour late to the table. It’s about togetherness, warmth, laughter and lightness.

    Give yourself a break, relax and enjoy the good stuff.

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    3. Deal with family issues later.

    Remember that Christmas isn’t the best time to sort out all your problems with family and friends. Nobody wants to argue and fight at Christmas so try and deal with any family issues another time. Even find a good opportunity to tell key people that you can put your differences aside for a few days.

    Also remember that you don’t have to spend every waking moment with family if you don’t want to. If you find yourself going mad, take a break, go for a walk or visit a friend, and don’t get over- exposed.

    4. Do things in the right spirit.

    What I’ve learned is that the best way of feeling fulfilled and magical at Christmas is to give without attachment to the outcome.

    Yes, that sounds pretty cheesy (like something Mickey Rooney would say in a Disney Christmas family movie), but I promise you it’s true.

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    Some people might moan about their gifts and others may take their stresses out on you. There’s nothing you can do about those things but you can choose how to be and how you want to feel.

    People would much rather spend time with you when you’re relaxed and generous of heart rather than seeing you wound up and stressed, so make a choice that puts you at your best and most generous of spirit.

    Am I worried about my potentially challenging (and even comically disastrous) Christmas?

    Nope.

    That’s simply because I know my family well enough to know that we can let our hair down and have fun, and that any personal issues people might have are nowhere near as important as the family relationships we value so much.

    I can’t wait for Christmas.

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

    Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

    If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

    1. Breathe

    The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

    • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
    • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
    • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

    Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

    2. Loosen up

    After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

    Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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    3. Chew slowly

    Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

    Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

    Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

    4. Let go

    Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

    The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

    It’s not. Promise.

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    Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

    Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

    21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

    5. Enjoy the journey

    Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

    Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

    6. Look at the big picture

    The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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    Will this matter to me…

    • Next week?
    • Next month?
    • Next year?
    • In 10 years?

    Hint: No, it won’t.

    I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

    Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

    7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

    You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

    Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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    8. Practice patience every day

    Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

    • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
    • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
    • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

    Final thoughts

    Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

    Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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