How to Have a Peaceful Holiday When Tension Runs High in Your Family

words | Elisabeth Davies, MC @elisabeth.davies

Have you ever felt apprehensive or tense thinking about how it’s going to go when you spend time with your family during the holidays?

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This feeling is not uncommon if you grew up in a family where tensions were high, due to fighting, yelling, or disharmony among parents and siblings. Between three and four million American children grew up in homes where there was verbal, physical, or emotional abuse.* The after effects of fear, anxiety or unresolved anger can last many years into adulthood. These emotions can get easily reignited when back in the family environment.

Emotionally protecting yourself by staying anchored into peace is key when you are exposing yourself to environments, or people where tensions can run high.

In addition to family relationship apprehension, not all families can afford the financial expenses that come from buying gifts and holiday expenses. There are approximately 10.4 million low-income working families in America. ** This financial pressure can add stress.

Keeping a budget and making homemade crafts and goodies can be meaningful to others as well as less expensive on your pocketbook.

Even with all the busyness and stress a holiday season can bring, you can still add peace and harmony to yours. One of the ways to do this is to practice being an observer rather than an absorber. When you choose to be an observer, you listen and watch without taking on, or personalizing any exchanges. You are aware that every word and behavior that comes from another human being is an expression of who they are. What they say and do is a reflection of what thoughts and beliefs they carry in themselves at that moment. Remind yourself of this when others are interacting with you, so you don’t take others words and behaviors personal.

It is easy to forget what the holidays are about when we are busy and stressed out. During the holidays remind yourself each day that the holidays are about celebrating, taking time off to enjoy good meals and time with others. Christmas, in particular, is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the good news he brought to the world. Each time you interact with others, focus on good things you would like to share with them this holiday. This focus can change interactions to become positive exchanges.

Being peaceful is not only something you can practice during the holidays, but you can incorporate it into your daily living. Each day take a minute and find a place that is quiet, where you can close your eyes and shut out the external world. Bring your attention to your breath. Take a long, slow six second inhale. During the inhale, say in your mind, ‘breathing up peace.’ Now take a long, slow six second exhale. During the exhale, say in your mind, ‘breathing out all stress and tension in my being.’ Continue this intentional peace-breathing exercise for a minimum of 60 seconds. As you get better and better at it, you can do it with your eyes open. Practice this intentional peace-breathing exercise each time you notice tension is building within you. Peace be with you during the holidays and throughout the New Year.

Counselor and Author of Good Things Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction

*http://www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org/effect-on-children.html

**http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2013/us-working-poor-families.aspx