Coming together with family and friends can be both a blessing and a stress. Added to the general tiredness many of us feel as the year-end approaches, the pressure of buying gifts, crazy traffic and over-excited children, these gatherings can actually feel like hard work instead of something to look forward to.
Mostly, we’re inclined to blame others (particularly the people closest to us) when things get difficult. “He’s short-tempered”, “she only thinks of herself”, “he’s controlling”, “she’s uptight”, we say. We get prickly and irritable and maybe even a bit irrational. It’s when we’re feeling tired or stressed that mindfulness and tact are needed most, yet this is when we’re least inclined to draw on these skills.
Deep down, most of us know we contribute to the dynamics in our relationships, but it’s not always easy to acknowledge our flaws. We don’t want to admit weakness or vulnerability or being wrong.
Ultimately, it’s all about awareness.
Rather than focusing only on the behaviour of the people around you, try the following tips to help you navigate a path to harmony.
Check in with yourself. Before you walk into the office in the morning or arrive home at night, take at least one minute to check in with how you’re feeling. Notice tiredness, irritability, anxiety, resentment, calm, joy, envy, anger, excitement or even just a neutral emotional state. Make room for all of your feelings and do your best not to judge them.
Take ownership. Acknowledge that it’s ok to have your experience – whatever that is. Often we’d prefer to push aside or numb negative thoughts and feelings, but this usually serves to make us even more tense and irritable.
Communicate. Be honest with yourself and the people around you. Letting someone close to you know that you’re feeling stressed or irritable isn’t a sign of failure.
Use humour. Nothing breaks a tense mood more effectively than laughter. The most confident people I know are the ones who are comfortable to laugh at themselves when they’re being uptight or prickly.
Empathise. As well as making room for how you feel, acknowledge and accept other people’s emotions. We’re all less than perfect at times and the more you can give other people permission to have their experience, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to do the same for you.