Relationships

Dreading Your Annual Family Festivities? Here are 7 Simple Survival Strategies…

Jacky Exton
Written by Jacky Exton

It’s THAT time of year again…

Rampant commercialism. Frayed tempers. And of course, the inevitable family get-togethers.

Now if you’re someone who savours the enchantment of the Festive Season and basks in the bosom of the extended family unit then this article is NOT for you.

For the rest of you, you’re in good company.

The Festive Season has always been a time of begrudging familial obligation for me and in my younger years I believed that I had to simply suck it up and get through it. And I did. Most of the time.

It’s not always easy to deal with family. Add a few glasses of tipple and a simple meal can become a potential war zone. With explosive tendencies. You enter bravely holding your breath and exit many hours later (emotionally) battered and bruised.

And so, dear readers, if you simply can’t avoid the inevitable beckoning from home, here are a few simple coping mechanisms that I’ve picked up over the years that may (just may) ease your journey through this year’s episode of “Xmas Lunch”.

DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH…!

This self-explanatory really. Our self-control and tolerance levels decrease rapidly with each glass of wine. They’re family remember – there is no “drinking them interesting”.
“Wine-induced honesty” is NEVER a good idea. Ever.

Staying sober and clear-headed will allow you to put into practice ALL of the points following this one. If you’re tipsy/fall-down-drunk, you’re a lost cause…

Pre-Pave the Day with REALISTIC expectations.

Your mother-in-law will greet you by commenting on your clothes. Just like she does EVERY year. EXPECT it. Don’t be shocked and hurt when she does. She is who she is and her comments are borne from her own sense of lack. You don’t have to fix her. Or judge her.

Simply humour her. See BEYOND the barbs and just let it float over your head.

It’s NEVER about you so don’t use her as your excuse to feel miserable.

End of story.

*In this example, feel free to replace the “mother-in-law” with whoever most appropriately fits the role.

Pick the bits you LIKE beforehand.

It’s rare that you dislike absolutely everything about this family gathering.

So, take some time beforehand to think about (or journal) the bits that you DO like.

The pudding? Chatting to your favourite cousin? Or maybe something as simple as the chance to wear your favourite outfit.

It can be anything. Big or small.

Make a list, memorize it, and FOCUS on it before, during AND after.

Don’t pay attention to the rest.

It’ll shift your experience. Dramatically.

LISTEN more than you speak.

Even under normal circumstances, it’s rare that you’ll find many people who actually LISTEN to what you’re saying. Or are curious to HEAR to your opinion.

So, when families converge, it’s THAT on steroids.

Non. Stop. Talking.

It’s verbal carnage. Everyone fighting for airspace.

But no-one really listening.

Sound familiar?

So, dare to be different this year. Be curious. Be the “one who listens”. Notice the dynamics exploding around you. Without judgement. Just curiosity.

It’ll blow your mind.

Take a Break.

Ok, let’s be realistic. We’re all human too.

Which means, it’s inevitable that at some point, triggers will be prodded. Or needled.

So, if/when you feel your pressure valve ready to pop, simply remove yourself from the environment for a short time (or as long as it takes for your blood pressure to drop).

Feign a phone call.

Visit the loo.

Or simply slip away unnoticed.

And when you’re out of range just close your eyes. And breathe. Deeply. At least 10 times.

It may just save your life (and some of your family’s too)..

Accept and Allow

This one’s easy.

ACCEPT everyone for who they are and ALLOW them to behave as they choose.

Nobody should ever have to change who they are (whether you like it or not) in order for you to be happy.

Just as YOU constantly strive to be who you AUTHENTICALLY are, so should you extend that courtesy to OTHERS.

Your role is to observe, with interest and curiosity.

No judgement.

That’s all.

Did I mention DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH…?

Enough said…

I’ve kept this article light-hearted but the tips here are real. And relevant.

We ultimately get to choose our own perspective. Without exception.

Which makes US responsible for our experience.

So, unless you’re ready to bravely decline the annual Festive Celebrations, your alternative is to change your story. And create one that you LIKE.

Simply shift your perspective. And sometimes, your behavior too.

It’ll shift your experience.

Simple, right?

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About the author

Jacky Exton

Jacky Exton

As a certified coach, Jacky believes that our “thinking” is the key to our wellbeing. No exceptions! Through her focused coaching programs, she offers overwhelmed and frustrated overthinkers much needed relief, by teaching them how to redirect their thinking productively. Learn more about her coaching programs or read more of her musings at www.jackyexton.com.