It’s been said that insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, and yet, year after year, millions of people throughout the world repeat the same old patterns. They grit their teeth and spend the holidays with parents who still bring up the time they were expelled for hitting the teacher with a water balloon; in-laws who would criticize each and every move every time they see you, and siblings who still hold grudges for long forgotten childhood fights.
Often these holiday gatherings mean that there’s simply “too much”. People eat and drink too much, spend too much, and, when things go wrong, (as they often do), it creates a melt-down situation that could have easily been avoided. By simply applying a few methods that are used in cognitive behavioral therapy to modify the behaviors, and avoid the triggers, you can turn your family holidays into a more positive, enjoyable time of the year.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps clients identify their problems and deal with their emotions, thoughts and feelings that influence their behavior or actions. By learning coping skills that CBT teaches and then applying those skills, people can often turn those stressful family holidays, into positive, happy celebrations.
If you’re trying to cope with a stressful family holiday, here are some ideas that might turn your family holidays from terrible to terrific.
Identify your triggers and then figure out how to turn them into a positive outcome.
An example might be a repetition of the same old embarrassing stories that everyone but you seem to enjoy. So how can you create a different scenario? Perhaps actually planning a family story-time where everyone shares their memories of a particular time or incident. It can be funny, touching or happy, and even a way to unite a family. Another idea is to ask the older family members to record their memories of their childhood so they can be passed down to the younger generations.
Make some changes.
If your family does the same thing year after year, perhaps boredom has set in. Make a list of some positive changes that can be made and suggest that they are implemented. Perhaps you could change the venue, menu or even plan different activities that would get the family members out of their rut.
Forgive and forget.
Sure, sometimes there will be stress and tension, but just because someone continues their behavior, doesn’t mean that you should allow them to “bug” you. Part of CBT is learning how to cope with situations you perceive as being negative — and if your actions change into a positive (or even neutral) behavior, you’ll discover that Uncle Joe’s remarks or even your mother-in-law’s obnoxious laugh doesn’t bother you nearly as much as it once did.
Give yourself a break.
This break can be physical, such as walking the dog, or mental, such as 5 minutes alone to relax with some deep-breathing exercises. By identifying when your stress levels are rising dangerously, you can take the steps to manage and reduce them.
Choose to be happy.
Your emotions are your choice, and, even though there might be family drama in abundance, you don’t have to participate or allow it to de-rail your mood. Staying away from discussions that could potentially turn, by staying busy and being in the company of family members whose company you enjoy.
By following these simple tips, you will not only take pleasure in spending time with family members, but you and they will benefit from that time spent.
From everyone at Rice Psychology Group, we wish you and your loved ones a fantastic Holiday Season!