For most women, happy and healthy relationships are an essential component to feeling fulfilled in life. They bring a sense of joy, purpose and connectedness and are central to our wellbeing. And then comes the holidays. That’s right, it’s the time of year when we feel equally enamored with and utterly annoyed at the people in our lives.
With the extra activities, obligatory functions and financial pressures, the holidays put stress and strain on relationships and surviving them with your relationships in tact, can be no small feat!
When surveyed, women unanimously (see survey) said the most stressful part of the holidays was managing family. With all the extra events, obligations and negotiations, it can sometimes feel like a challenge to get through the holidays with your self and your sanity. But there are actually three simple ways you can create happy and healthy holiday relationships – and you don’t even need the cooperation of your in-laws!
1. Communicate openly and often.
Part of the stress of the holidays is that there are many people and preferences to take into consideration. It’s that time of year when we are all trying to connect with loved ones both far and near and all in a few weeks. They even made a satire movie a few years ago about a couple needing to visit with four different families in four different cities all on Christmas Day!
With so much planning and preparing, what can so often happen, is that women are all too ready to compromise, clam up and not really express our thoughts and opinions. Our Cousin Phil needs us to come by earlier or our husband needs to change our plans and we find ourselves being the “go along” girl and acquiescing to other’s automatically. Rather than speaking up for what is best for us, it can appear simpler to just not say anything. However, repeatedly not expressing ourselves or communicating our thoughts and opinions leads to disappointments, and unfulfilled expectations.
The best way to avoid the negative consequences of miscommunication is to find ways of expressing yourself that are clear, unemotional and focused on you. Instead of just saying “yes” when everything inside of you is screaming “no”, try saying that you would like to find a compromise and make things work. Offer suggestions and be proactive in finding solutions rather than just assuming things have to be a certain way.
2. Shift your focus.
Another common experience women have is we lose our sense of self or identify during the holiday hustle and bustle. With so much going on and in the spirit of the season, it’s common to fall into the alluring trap of being completely “other focused” during this time of year. We make everything about other’s needs, wants and desires. The challenge with that is that it lacks balance. Often it’s also accompanied by the mistaken belief that if we put our own needs, wants and desires second that somehow that will make the holidays better for everyone else.
While this may be the case occasionally, the more we discount ourselves, including our intuition, needs, wants and desires, the more we open the door to feelings such as bitterness and resentment and thoughts that we are being taken advantage of or that we don’t matter. And at the end of the season, many women find that they have neglected themselves creating feelings of emptiness and exhaustion.
See if this year, you can let others take full ownership of their experience and instead focus on making the season enjoyable for you. Identify what are the experiences you most want to have during the holidays, such as meaningful connections with others or the joy in helping others with less resources and then plan your activities accordingly.
3. Be open to receive.
Whether it’s taking care of others, accommodating requests or compromising, the holidays are all about giving, giving, giving. While it is normal and natural to give during the season, many women give automatically without much thought to their deeper motives. Are you giving out of obligation or desire? Do you give to avoid the consequences or because you genuinely want to help? Giving is great as long as you allow yourself to say now when it is too much.
Sometimes we get so involved with giving, that we forget it’s a two way street! After all, if there was no one to receive, we would have nothing to give. This holds true for others as well and sometimes the best thing we can do, is allow others the joy in giving to us.
This holiday season, identify your limits and play with allowing others to give to you. This could be anything from letting someone hold the door open for you to letting a loved one help you in some significant way. Practice responding with a smile and a thank you.
Now of course, these three steps will create happy and healthy relationships year round, but with the holidays, they are essential. I invite you to implement some of the above suggestions and see if your holiday season can be rich and meaningful as well as fun and festive.
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