As comedian George Burns once said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” The holidays will soon bring that family to a dining room near you. If close contact with some of your relations stresses you out each year and you start having flashbacks from the Ghost of Christmas’ Past, maybe it’s time to try something different.
Here is a buffet of sage advice from some experts:
- Learn how to forgive. Research conducted by Dr. Robert Enright at the International Forgiveness Institute has shown that forgiveness “creates a higher quality of life, a healthier body, and a more positive attitude”. In addition, it helps us live a life of integrity and improves our personal relationships.
- Utilize conflict resolution skills offered by Bruce Feiler, “This Life” columnist for the Sunday New York Times. His suggestions include sitting alongside the person you are “negotiating” with as it increases collaboration and try to avoid using second-person pronouns (“you always do that”) since it is evidence of poor problem-solving ability.
- Manage your anxiety and angry encounters by understanding how to control your emotions. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy developed by Dr. Albert Ellis instructs you to remember these ABC’s:
Activating Events- are actual unpleasant situations or events we encounter that can trigger stress. EX: Interacting with a sibling at Thanksgiving conjures up hurtful experiences from childhood.
Beliefs and Self-Talk- are silent, irrational statements we TELL ourselves about the activating event. EX: “My brother had no right to treat me that way and, since he did, I feel worthless. I can’t stand seeing him.”
Consequences-are emotional and behavioral reactions that result from our beliefs and self-talk statements. Our behaviors can be negative and self-harming. EX: Anxiety, anger and depression.
Try to practice “straight thinking” - acknowledging that events can influence you, but recognize you have the power to control consequences by replacing irrational beliefs and self-talk with rationality. EX: "My brother treated me that way. I didn't like it and, while it's difficult seeing him, I can stand it."
- Use the Buddhist concept of “bare attention”. Practice clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens TO us and IN us at each successive moment of perception. Psychiatrist Dr. Mark Epstein believes that this kind of mindfulness enables us to observe everything (even holidays with the family) calmly using objective, passive, observation. Simply being present with our own actual experience, we are able to love and heal ourselves.
- Let go of the Hallmark card version of the holidays! Don’t obsess over your friends’ Facebook page, where everyone’s family looks like they get along because they’re all dressed in matching Christmas sweaters….or just Santa Hats. Click here to see kids that may have real issues with their parents when they grow up.
Finally, hold on tight to your sense of humor and enjoy Happy Holidays!
Positive Outlook Counseling
Barbara Crowley, M.S., LPC-I
16610 North Dallas Parkway, Ste 2100
Dallas TX, 75248
Positive Outlook Counseling services range from individual counseling to family therapy to marriage counseling services. Barbara Crowley specializes in individual therapy for adolescents and adults.
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