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Reflections

Strategies to Survive Holiday Strain

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; listen to others, even the dull...they too, have their story. Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata,” 1927.
 
Strategies to Survive Holiday Strain

Singing about Christmas Andy Williams crooned “Its the most wonderful time of the year.” Not so for some. The death of loved ones, strained relationships and the tension around the table can take its toll. But before you decide to check out emotionally or cut off completely consider this: “The higher the quality of your relationships the longer you live,” says psychologist Bert Uchino. Research reveals that good relationships do as much to promote physical well-being as a top-notch diet or a good work-out coach. Here are some tips to be defined but stay connected. 

Listen more. Everyone is going through something regardless of how it seems. Show interest and simply ask: “what are you going through?” If that’s too personal, say “what have you been up to these days?” Then turn off the cell phone and really listen. 

Be honest. Healthy speech is clear, concise and honest. Speak quietly. Avoid interrupting, cross-talking, or speaking over people. When you’re asked a question you don’t want to answer feel free to say: “Thanks for your interest but I’d rather not talk about that right now.” If you do want to share offer: “I’ll tell you how I’m doing but I just need you to listen and support me right now. No advice please.” Know you have a 100% right to control what/how much you want to say...even with family and close friends.

Let go of grudges. While its true that slights sting it’s important to learn to let them go. Those close to us don’t usually intend to be insensitive or intentionally hurtful. All of us carry wounds form our families of origin that inform the way we relate to others. Focusing on unkind words or unthinking actions only festers hard feelings. Fred Luskin, a Stanford psychologist discovered that the ability to find the impersonal in a relationship is critical to our ability to feel insulated from the potential hurt of that relationship. In his research he found that people who replay hurts develop a “grievance story” that marks the way they live life and leaves them feeling victimized and unhappy.  

Plan a time to talk. Not all hurts are small slights. Some are deep wounds that are betrayals of trust. These require more than letting go or moving on. We may need professional help to gain perspective. Simply acting like nothing happened is disrespectful and deepens the wound. Holidays are no place to discuss such problems.  If you’re at a place to talk with the offender about what happened that hurt you, plan a good time and a safe space to talk. Simply say: ““I’m having a hard time with our relationship right now. I’ll call after the holidays and we can plan a time to talk.

Practice gratitude. Researchers have found that cultivating gratitude increases your happiness and inoculates you to prior hurts and future injuries. Gratitude keeps you grounded in the moment and puts you in touch with what’s right about your life. Loyola University researchers Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff have developed a technique to work on gratitude called savoring. Savoring is taking small simple positive experiences and wresting every drop of goodness out of them that you can. A way to do this is the “Three Blessings Exercise.” Every night before you go to bed write down the 3 things that went well that day. Think about why they went well. Studies say that those who continue this exercise for a week straight can increase happiness and decrease depressive symptoms for up to a 6 month period.


Hope this helps. Happy Holidays!

Dr. Beverly Weinhold/December 2012

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