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7 Tips for Surviving and Thriving During the Holiday Season

Let’s make up a new word for the holidays, and perhaps use it anytime we have a challenging event coming up – sur-thriving!

It means thriving in a potentially difficult situation.

First, for those of you who have a blissful time at family gatherings, particularly around the holidays, congratulations!  Seriously. It’s a blessing, and this blog isn’t for you, but perhaps consider sharing it with others.

For many of us, however, spending time with family, particularly around the holidays, is a mixed bag. On one hand, we enjoy hanging with those we love the most, and on the other, there’s often someone who is difficult to be around, or challenging dimensions to ones we love. We expect things, situations, and people’s behavior to be different than what we know from our experience.

Here are some tools that you can use to find your path towards bliss during the holidays, or at least find a more strategic approach to sur-thriving despite the circumstances that come your way.

  1. Manage your Expectations: Stress comes from when our expectations do not mesh with reality. You are 100% in control of your expectations. Modifying them allows you to reduce the stress associated with the upcoming event.
  2. Set Limits: You get to decide what to discuss and with whom. Set limits pleasantly, politely, lovingly, and firmly; “I love our family and would really appreciate it if we could not discuss politics this year.” This can apply to any topic. If others discuss things that you’re uncomfortable with, keep in mind that you do not need to engage, even if you disagree. On the other hand, don’t force your opinions and voice where it won’t be appreciated.

I am constantly amazed at those individuals who have an opinion that is so vitally important that they must share it with everyone. Just because you have an opinion, does not mean you need to share it. Try to strategically find a way to enjoy spending time with one another. Find those topics that you can all agree on, like favorite books or movies, or simply reminisce about fond memories of years gone by.

  1. Visualization: Visualize what you expect the holidays to be like, but visualize accurately, and consider the worst-case scenario. When you get to the family gathering, it will be better than expected. Further, if you’re having difficulty with a specific person, visualize a loving moment between you from the past. Visualization is a deep and powerful tool full of possibilities.
  2. Preponderance of Kindness: Begin to embrace, foster, and exude a preponderance of kindness. Hanlon’s Razor might help, “Do not attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance.” Emotions are contagious. If things get heated, be the island of calm.
  3. Recognize the Capacity of Others: One’s capacity is their ability to behave a certain way in any given moment. If you find yourself in a disconnect with someone, understand that they are doing the best they can – that they are at capacity and can do no better at this specific point in time. If you expect a relative or friend to behave differently than they usually do, that is your issue – not theirs. See #1.
  4. Recognize It’s Natural to be Uncomfortable: Holidays are hard, particularly when you haven’t spent time with people in a while. Reconnecting with family and friends can be inherently difficult. Expect this and develop a plan. See #3.
  5. Avoid Anxiety Associated with the Event: Being nervous, fearful, or full of dread for an upcoming event is an utter waste of time and emotional energy. Come up with a plan for whatever event is coming up. Tuck it away (perhaps, yes, even write it down), and execute the plan at the time of the event.

This holiday season, use these tips to develop your own personal “flip chart,” or set of go-to tools to manage the holidays. Flip charting is a core component to the Alternative Response Method, one I explore in detail in my book, The Art of Quality Decision Making (if you haven’t read it yet, check out a free sample chapter). It also makes a great gift.

Many years ago, I found myself getting anxious about certain family events, challenging business meetings, and challenging situations. By developing my flip chart, I no longer fear them. I look at them as opportunities to strategically be of service and find calm amid the storm. I challenge you to read my book to start on your journey toward this ability. You have $20 to lose, and a lifetime of bliss to gain.

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