Too often Christmas is angst-ridden and stressful. Avoid conflict at Christmas with these easy-to-employ tactics
Christmas is a time for family, love and giving from the heart. Peace, harmony and happiness. Cut! Hold on. Is that really how you would explain your normal Christmas festivities?
Yes Christmas can be fun, but for many of us it’s also a time to have our hot buttons pushed and old wounds from our childhood re-opened. Unfortunately conflict and Christmas often come together.
Imagine if you could create a completely different scene this Christmas—one that had no conflict involved. How much more enjoyable would the festive season be!? Rather than a fantasy let’s turn this vision into a reality. Below are six tips to help you put peace and harmony back into Christmas.
1. Become a Buddhist monkOk so I’m not talking literally here. There are many events you cannot control in your life and you certainly cannot control other people’s behaviour. As much as you would like Aunty Joyce to refrain from bad-mouthing your husband or your father-in-law to accept your pregnancy out of wed-lock, people will not always do as you please (and Santa isn’t real either… sorry).
Instead, practice the Buddhist philosophies of acceptance and letting go. Accept that people are who they are. So your little sister lives a dysfunctional life; accept it as show she is right now. Let go of wanting to change her, make her “see the light” or be what you call a better person. Let go of the need for things to be different. Instead just breathe, come into the present moment and be. Ahh…
2. Refuse to take the baitConflict requires more than one person otherwise it’s simply a one-sided rant. The only way you can feed conflict is by taking part in some way – whether that is through your own words, withdrawal, or outright physical responding.
The best way to break the chain of events is to change what YOU do. Decide that you will behave differently this year; refuse to take the bait irrespective of what other family members do. See it as a social experiment. Curiously watch as sarcastic comments fall flat without the same old response, smile when people expect you to snigger or assertively state your needs for a change if you usually let others dictate.
3. De-stressPart of the fuel for Christmas conflict arises from the stress to make functions run smoothly. Remember this is self-imposed stress and a reflection of high expectations, and often, perfectionism.
This year instead of trying to create the perfect Christmas Day, why not focus on making it the most stress-free Christmas Day, or one that enables everyone to relax and chill out rather than get wound up in knots. Take a chill pill! Remember, it is more important to enjoy one anothers company than to have a perfectly cooked chook. Relax, take it easy, and give yourself and everyone around you a break.
4. Stay homeDo all of your family events end in despair at Christmas? Then why continue to attend? Why not stay at home instead and refuse to buy in to the usual insane collaboration. The parents would be offended? Sure, but in some situations being offended is better than an all-out war. Be honest, tell your parents you think it is an unhealthy tradition for the family and decide to discuss a new way to celebrate Christmas or you’re not coming. It may not feel like it but you always have a choice.
5. Engage in therapyIf your family dynamics have such a strong hold on you that it is blocking you from living a happy life, it may be time to get some help. Often we replay in our adult lives the unhealthy family dynamics we experienced in childhood trying to get a different result. Yet what we really need to do to break the patterns is heal the wounds from our childhood.
Learning to deal with your past, and let go of resentment toward family members can be a truly liberating experience. It will certainly provide you peace of mind, may just improve other relationships in your life and will definitely help break the old family triggers at Christmas.
6. Do some soul searchingPerhaps a completely different tack is called for. Spend the Christmas period practicing gratitude for all that you have in your life and compassion for those around you that are struggling. This is one of the most calming, rejuvenating things you can do for yourself and provides much needed perspective when conflict does arise.
Gratitude makes you feel happier about your life and shifts you away from complaining and wanting things to be different. Keep a notebook specifically for the Christmas period and capture 101 things you are grateful for. Practice a compassionate meditation exercise or take the family to volunteer on Christmas day. Soul searching such as this can shift Christmas from a conflict-ridden tradition to a whole new approach to life.