It’s the holiday season, and stress and holidays often go hand in hand. Shopping, decorating, end of the year deadlines at work, and family planning can often leave us feeling impatient, cranky, and in some cases, downright depressed. This added stress can often result in tension and conflict, old wounds can resurface, and relationships can breakdown.
In my relationship counseling practice, holiday seasons are my busiest time of the year. Breakdowns abound with spouses, children, and extended family members.
Here are 4 ways to avoid the pitfalls and enhance your ability to have relationships that are loving and connected:
1. Take Responsibility for the Quality of Your Relationship. Most of us are conditioned to blame something or someone else for how we are feeling. When relationships come under stress, we often want to fix or change something about another in order to feel better about ourselves, or blame someone else for causing the upset. This is when the problem really starts: the moment we blame others for the problem, the power for the correction evaporates. Are you really going to change them and thus heal the upset? How successful has this proven to be in the past? When you put yourself in the driver’s seat regarding the quality of the relationship, you take control of the problem. You are now back in control. In other words, this holiday season, are you willing to intend to stay loving and connected, regardless of the actions or behaviors of others? Do this and observe the outcome. The results may astonish you!
2. Express Appreciation. When we are under stress, we often forget to express appreciation for the good in our relationships. We simply take them for granted. However, appreciation is one of the keys to creating extraordinary relationships. Even if you appreciate something, however small, it changes how that person feels about you and about the relationship. Whether it’s your spouse, your child, or someone in your extended family, when someone feels appreciated, it changes how they act in the relationship, potentially changing the overall love and connection that you both experience.
3. Ask Yourself, “What am I really upset about right now?” Sometimes when we are upset in relationships, we don’t recognize that we are actually triggered into some deeper pain, and are blaming someone else for making us feel that way. Relationship problems are often a result of deeper feeling that get triggered. Our own beliefs about why someone acted the way they did, or said whatever they said, can cause our emotional reactions to become intense. Taking a moment to becoming aware of why you are having an intense emotional reaction can change the way that you react and express yourself. And by changing the way you express yourself, you effect the way they will respond to you.
4. Check Your Expectations. We often have a list of “should’s” for ourselves and for others. And when our “should’s” are not met, we often get upset. We get stuck on “autopilot”, unaware of our intention to create a loving space in which our relationships can flourish. We tend to disregard the positive aspects of the relationship, and instead, focus mainly on its negative aspects. When you make a conscious choice to focus on the positives, the love and connection that you truly desire presents itself as a real possibility.
Remember, you have the power to shift the quality of your relationships by remembering to put some simple practices into your daily interactions with the people in your life. And these practices are most important when life becomes hectic and chaotic!
I wish you a loving and connected holiday season.