Hear ye! Hear ye! The holiday season is underway. This time of year can be a wonderful time of celebration, connection and family bonding. It can also bring about unrealistic expectations, stress, and unnecessary conflict. Images of a Rockwell family gathering may be the fantasy, but what we experience within our families might be considered a nightmare. Instead of looking upon this time of year with trepidation, stress, and anxiousness, let us explore positive ways to get through the holidays with your sanity in tact!

Manage expectations: Be aware (or beware) of hidden and stated expectations. We may envision situations to be orchestrated perfectly based on our wants and desires. Take care not to expect that our family member or partner will make the best choices because when they are not the choices we would make, the feelings of anger and disappointment arise. Determine what your own needs are. Are they healthy? Is it realistic? Do you expect it to be done in a certain way (your way)? Help yourself - detach from how things will get done and focus on accepting the fact that people are either doing the best they can, the best they know how, or the only way they choose to. Understand that you have the right and responsibility to make choices for yourself. What will you do?

Make it a joyful time: This season is based on wonderful events in our past. Look forward to those big and small moments with family and friends. Instead of seeing shopping as a stressful time; it can be a fun adventure to find that special gift for your loved one. Avoid succumbing to the frustrations of traffic and turn on the Christmas songs and have a family sing along. If you make a bit of effort, you can find joy in each situation you are in.

Create memories: Everyday we have the opportunity to make moments that will last a lifetime in our memory bank. Avoid putting time constraints on yourself to rush from place to place, but go slow and steady and enjoy the journey. We have changed our family tradition of excessive gifts to taking a family trip and enjoying the time together. The brief tearing of wrapping paper is in no comparison to laughing and talking while holding hands, running and jumping, and discovering a new locale together.

Learn to be in the present: It is quite often that family arguments cause a concern for many. Instead of using this time together to rehash the past, embrace the time you are spending together and delay difficult conversations for another time. Focus on what you have versus what you do not. Look at the joy that is in your life instead of what you believe is lacking. Recognize the wonderful gift of being present.

Plan in advance: The change of pace that comes with the holidays can keep you going at high rates of speed which can induce unnecessary stress. When trying to manage your part of the meal or determining what gifts to purchase, we can forget to do things to take care of ourselves such as get enough rest, take necessary medications, or bring travel items. Slow down and plan. Things will happen as they should and you will get where you need to be.

Rest and relax: Sometimes we rush and hurry to avoid quiet times as many feel lonely and depressed during this time of year. Many are without family or friends due to the variety of circumstances. Do something special to lift your spirits. Go to the movie theater to see the latest seasonal comedy, get a spa treatment, or drive around the neighborhoods to see the beautiful decorations. Self care is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and improves our ability to relate with our family and friends.

This too will pass. The hustle and bustle of the crowds will die down and the time deadline will expire. The aforementioned concepts, however, work for every day of your life. Embrace the opportunities that are presented to you or create your own. With a shift in attitude, you can enjoy this time of year with a warm heart and a loving spirit. It's fitting for the reason for the season.

Karen Harold © 2007

Author's Bio: 

Karen Harold, Principal of Conflict Coaching Company and Family Conflict Resolution Center and also known as The Conflict Coach, consults with and coaches individuals, corporations, law enforcement agencies, and non-profit organizations to assist in providing turnkey educational solutions, Domestic Violence awareness and response strategies, and conflict resolution initiatives with the intended result of more enhanced personal living and establishment of efficient and cooperative workplaces. Karen is a national trainer to patrol officers, training officers, social service providers, healthcare professionals and victim advocates.

Karen Harold is the host of the Internet radio program, Unraveling Conflict, which creates the opportunity for real conversation about issues of conflict, anger, stress, and relationships. She can be reached at karen@familyresolutionctr.com.