The holidays end up being a connective but stressful time of year no matter what our family life is like. Stepping back into our family dynamic typically brings out old feelings, behaviors, and beliefs about ourselves. This lies on the spectrum from being comforting to distressing or disorienting. Further complicating the issue is the stress of this past year from the virus, economic instability, and social unrest. Here are three tips to help you navigate this complicated holiday season.

Determine your comfort level:
Everyone has a differing level of comfort and coping to the changes that the Coronavirus has caused. With rising cases and possible shutdowns looming everyone needs to decide their place in how they will handle family time. Whatever your comfort level is, it is useful to define that to yourself and loved ones that you will be spending time with. Having clear expectations typically results in lower levels of stress and conflict that could mix with entrenched family dynamics. Know before you go, and make sure to clearly communicate especially with at risk family members.

Navigating points of discomfort:
It is useful to determine the causes of possible discomfort and conflict that can typcailly come up over the holidays. Is there the one Aunt, Uncle, or parent that topics need to be avoided with? What are common trigger points for distress or conflict within your family? By asking ourselves basic questions around an issue we can quickly feel our way towards possible areas that would be better off avoiding. If an area of distress is met it’s useful to identify how we can be aware of that within our minds and bodies. Does our anger flash quickly? Does it come up slowly? Do we stew in thoughts or feelings? When we can determine what happens with anger, stress, or conflict we can know when and how to respond. Do we need to take breaks from certain family members? What is something that is tactful to say to leave a distressing situation? When we know what the issues are, how they are signaled within us, then we can move towards basic response patterns to feel empowered through remaining emotionally grounded.

Realizing connection:
Reconnecting with family members and friends is the hallmark of the holiday season. We travel thousands of miles and commit resources to reifying our connections. Some simple ways to facilitate reconnection in an intentional way is to understand how we like to connect. Are you someone that likes to do activities? Lounge around? Cook? Check in on old activities? Just begin investigating what fills you with close friends or even a spouse to determine a good starting point with other family members. Now we can begin connecting that with other family members asking what they might like or what will fill their sense of connectedness. Once we understand some of these basic principles we can select activities that we know have a good chance for cultivating positive relationships. This can be especially helpful for family members we have a difficult time with or who have hotspot areas in conversation. The better the bond can be managed and facilitated the more likelihood of decreased conflict.

What’s important to note is that every experience with the holidays is different. A combination of stress and connection is common for many and can be managed. If you feel like you resonate with this article, feel overwhelmed by the holidays, or if the holidays bring up memories that are unmanageable please reach out for consultation.