With everything that comes along with the Holiday season, it’s no wonder this is the most stressful time of year for many people. Whether you’re deciding on what gifts to buy or decorating the house or cooking for the family, everything takes time and stress builds up quickly.
Even though a lot of Holiday stress comes from having so much to do, there’s another area in which people get worked up. This is an area that the Holiday season was built around, but that so many people loath to confront. It’s an area that can bring instant happiness or devastating misery. And it’s also the area that we have the least control over. And that area is relatives.
The idea of being around the relatives for the Holidays can give you enough anxiety that you dive into a panic attack. We can control our time we can control our budget and we can control our nutrition during the Holidays, but the one thing that we can’t control is our relatives. And considering we’re creatures of habit who love control, the thought of not having control can bring us to our wits end.
Think about it. The number of movies that have been made that bring to light the ways that relatives can influence the outcome of our happiness, it’s practically ingrained in us to believe that relatives ruin the Holidays. Honestly, how many people look at Cousin Eddie and go “Yup, I feel your pain”?
Luckily for you, even though you can’t control every interaction that happens or every word that comes out of others mouths or every bumped dish that falls off the table from having too many people around, there is one thing that you can control. And that one thing is you.
Yes, you can control you. You can control the things that come out of your mouth and the thoughts that go through your head and the feelings you get when something happens. I know what you’re thinking, “But Jerry, Aunt Sallie made fun of my weight” or “Cousin Bob is always drunk and making a fool of himself” or “Uncle Bill just burnt down the Christmas tree”. And these things might all be true.
What is also true is that you decided to translate these situations into terrible events. You decided to take Aunt Sallie’s personally, even though it might be true, and you decided to be embarrassed for Cousin Bob, even though it’s not you who is acting a fool, and you decided to get angry at Uncle Bill, even though everyone is still alive.
So even though things happen during the Holidays that may not fit into our definition of “perfect”, the way we perceive them will dictate how much we enjoy the time we have. And perception, or the story we are telling ourselves, is something that we can change at any moment.
Now that we understand that our story means everything, let’s look at a couple of strategies we can utilize to really take our Holiday season to another level. These strategies are just a small part of a bigger plan that you can develop. Once you have the right strategies, you must take massive action to start getting results. So instead of waiting until your first Holiday party to implement these guidelines, start doing them NOW.
If I were to ask you if you had opinions, I assume you would say “yes”. After all, if you’re a human, you have opinions. Now, if I were to ask you what your opinion was on the recent presidential election, I’m sure you’d be prepared dull out your thoughts. If I then proceeded to completely counter-attack your opinion with opposing views, what would you do? Would you get angry? Would you feel disrespected? Would you respect my opinion? Would you appreciate that I have an opinion? Be honest with yourself.
As humans, we value our opinions to a great degree. Which we should, because if we didn’t have opinions and didn’t value them, then we wouldn’t have anything to guide us in our actions and daily lives. What we struggle with is valuing other people’s opinions, especially those that oppose our view. If Aunt Sallie says it looks like you’ve put on weight, that’s her opinion. If Uncle John says your decorating is awful, that’s his opinion. We all expect others to respect our thoughts, so we must respect their opinions as well. Otherwise we’re just a hypocrite.
Have you ever been driving and someone put on their blinker to get in front of you. You, being the kind soul that you are, let them over. You wait for a wave and wait for a wave and wait for a wave. And, guess what, they don’t wave. So now you’re angry that you even let them over. I mean, how dare they not appreciate your kind gesture?!?
This is one simple example of having expectations and ending in pain. You see, expectations are the main reason we have pain in our lives. We expect to get a promotion or we expect to get a “thank you” wave or we expect that Aunt Sallie is going to pick on us. We prime ourselves with these expectations, and when they’re not met (or, in the case of Aunt Sallie, when they are met) we get upset and angry.
Do yourself a favor. Leave your expectations at the door. Tony Robbins always says “change your expectations for appreciation”.
This is an old saying that holds a ton of value, but doesn’t get much respect. Just like you have expectations of others, they have expectations of you. And if you go against those expectations, they won’t know how to react.
For example, let’s say you’re talking with dear old Aunt Sallie (sorry we’ve been picking on you so much), and she points out that your son Josh is a failure because he just dropped out of college. Due to past interactions, Aunt Sallie is expecting you to get angry and fight back. She’s primed and ready for an argument! But this time, you’ve decided to leave your expectations at the door. Instead of reacting to the situation, you decide to kill her with kindness and confront the situation as it is. You say, “Yes, Josh is struggling to figure out what he wants to do right now. We’re supportive of his decision and are willing to help him in any way”. Suddenly Aunt Sallie must change her state. She was expecting a fight, not a logical, thoughtful answer.
If you smile and acknowledge the situation, whoever you’re with must change their state. And if they realize you’re not willing to fight with them, they might just move on to the next victim.
Start using these strategies immediately. Keep them in the front of your mind with the next interaction you have. Start building the willpower to keep everything in perspective and let go of your expectations to exchange them for appreciation.