Tips and Strategies For a Peaceful Family Gathering During Holidays

I see so many of my clients and friends struggling around holidays. I want to share some tips and strategies to make this holiday season stress free and as enjoyable as possible. 

Please know I am not a mental health professional. For any mental health issues, please seek help from medical professionals. 

I do, however, life coach clients one-on-one and group coaching. Below are some of the tips I’ve shared during the coaching sessions. 

Before you go to a family gathering for Christmas, here are some tips to prepare so you show up peaceful, happy, and content. 

Mediate or if you’re not into meditation, try to clear your head and be silent for 5 minutes. Use any method that helps you relax and clear your mind. 

Come up with five positive words of affirmation. Start with I’m so happy and grateful now that ………. Fill in the blanks. Start with appreciating each part of your body, then move on to the externals. Try to tap into the energy of those feelings, not just make a list of things in your head. 

Come up with some physical moves to change the energy in your body and tap into excitement. Jumping jacks and dancing work best for me. If you’re not able to jump or dance, you can use your arms by pretending to lift up weights up and down inhaling when your arms go up and exhaling when your arms come down. Inhale and exhale through your nose.  It’s Ok if some fluids come out of your nose. 

Prepare ahead of time what you want to share with your family. This will help to reduce your social anxiety as well as avoid potential unwanted reactions. 

Prepare some jokes to tell if the atmosphere starts to feel off. Write them down on your phone if you think you can’t remember.  (I’m terrible at remembering jokes. I can’t remember the right jokes for the right place at the right time) 

Think of the best times you’ve had with your family. Prepare the stories to share with them.

If your parents are alive, be grateful to share another holiday with them. If they were abusive or they were not the kind of parents you would have wanted, work on forgiveness. If not for them, do it for yourself. Forgiveness helps you heal. 

Prepare something positive to say about each family member. It will lift up their spirits as well as yours. 

Prepare a dish or a drink. Make something you know everyone or the majority of the people will like.

If you’re the one hosting the family Christmas dinner, ask everyone to pitch in. It’s not fair for one person to do all the work. 

If anyone in the family gave you anything to wear as a gift during the past holidays, it would be very nice to wear it at this year’s Christmas dinner. It shows that their gift is appreciated and being used.  

Showing up at the Christmas party. You got this!  

On your way to the family gathering, listen to the music that puts you in a good mood. If you’re the one hosting Christmas dinner, play music in the house and dance around and get yourself in a positive energy. 

As you walk into the door or if family members are coming to your house, take one big deep breath, and visualize light coming from the sky into the top of your head and going down throughout your body all the way to your toes. 

In your mind, say your affirmation: I’m so happy and grateful to be here. This is going to be the best time I’ve ever had with my family or friends. 

Greet the person with a smile, make eye contact, arms wide open ready to receive or give a hug. It’s very hard for someone not to smile back when you smile first. (dogs are the best example of greeters. Be that big Lab who shakes the tale when seeing people they like. They don’t care what you’ve done in the past, or how you look now, how much you stink, they are just happy to see you.) 

Compliment the person who greeted you. Something about what they’re wearing, how they smile, how good their hugs feel, how good they smell, or if it’s their house complement on decoration or the smell of the food. Whatever you do, start with compliments. 

Keep a straight posture, shoulders back and down, head up high. Walk like you’re Wonder Woman or Superman coming back from a successful mission where you saved the world. It changes the energy in your body and puts you in a self-confident mood. 

If there are children around, take a few minutes to give them special undivided attention. Children often feel left out because adults are talking and they don’t understand what a heck is going on. Please don’t start with “Oh my God,  you’ve gotten so big, or how’s school?” They are so bored with those lines and the last thing they wanna talk about during holidays is school. Ask them what they’re into these days, how they are truly feeling, and what they like or dislike. Get to know them on a deeper level. Compliment them on something specific they say because it shows you’re paying attention. Whenever there’s a conversation at the table, try to ask kids a question so they feel included. It also helps them with social skills. No texting emojis at the table. Their smiles are the best.    

Offer to help set the table or with anything they need. If you’re the host, it’s Ok to ask for help. 

If there’s music in the house, sing along and possibly dance. If your mom or dad is in the kitchen, dance with them around the kitchen. 

As you set the table, use utensils as microphones to sing along to the music.

If you have a good memory of yourself as a child using kitchen gadgets as microphones or pots and pans as drums, this will be a good memory to talk about. Bring that inner child. I’m sure your parents will enjoy that.

Compliment your parents for something they did well raising you. It’s possible that might the best Christmas gift for them. 

Stay in your positive energy even if you feel other people’s energy is not matching yours. You can be the light for everyone. If you feel like your energy is not bringing enough brightness to the group, you can tell some of the jokes you prepared and if that doesn’t work, step under a ceiling light. Visualize light coming to the tip of your head and going down to the tip of your toes, then visualize the light spreading around the room. It can be a few seconds so it’s not too awkward. I know this sounds really cheesy but I’ve used this technique at funerals and it worked. I was able to change the dark mood in the room by simply standing under the light and visualizing sending light to everyone in the room. 

As you sit around the table, compliment on the food and focus on the food. Stay in the present moment. Practice gratitude and or prayer.  We often overeat during holidays because there’s so much good food and we’re busy talking that we don’t even pay attention to how much food we eat. 

Here’s a simple mindful eating exercise: look at the food first, notice food colors, shapes, and different shades, steam, then smell it and slowly bite into it. As you’re chewing your food,  try to guess the taste of each ingredient. This can be a game you can use with people you’re dining with so all of you get into the present moment of mindful eating. 

Remember not to drink too much and if you do please do not drive drunk.  

If other people are talking, be an active listener and supporter. Don’t judge or jump to conclusions. You can validate other people’s feelings or if you don’t feel like it, it’s Ok to stay quiet. If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best not to say anything at all. 

When it’s your turn, remember to share one thing that you’d like to improve and two to three things that have been going well for you. Make sure you’re not showing off your success or bragging about it. This often puts some siblings in competitive energy or shut down completely. 

Make sure you have something positive to say to each person at the table without trying to dominate the conversation with compliments. 

If there are differences in politics, it’s best to avoid them together. However, if the conversations come up, think of something that you agree on. I had an uncomfortable conversation with a friend last year and I remembered we both used to agree that politicians should have term limits. I started talking about that and the mood shifted to a positive one. Remember that whoever is sitting as a president, it’s there for a limited time, your family is for life. Your family will be there to help you when you need help, not the president. 

If someone compliments you, receive it with grace. Don’t let it get to your head and feed an ego. 

If someone criticizes you, receive it as feedback. Try not to get defensive if you can. It’s hard when others make comments about you that are not true but calling them out on it rarely go well. Don’t take it personally. Other people’s opinion about you does not belong in your head, it’s in their heads. Remember that hurt people, hurt other people. Often, people who criticize others, it’s their own mirror, they are critical of themselves. You can pretend to zip a sweater and think, “these comments are not entering my head or my body, they mean nothing.” Then when you feel calm, you can say, “that’s interesting to hear you say that. Thank you for that feedback.”  Or if they are telling you something you should be doing, you can say, “Thank you for that. I’ll think about it.” Then walk away or change the subject by asking them a question. In that way, the focus gets back to them, not you.  

Don’t give people advice unless they ask. 

Don’t criticize them for anything they’ve done or are doing now. 

I hope this helps. If these tips were not helpful enough and you may have a different family issue,  please feel free to schedule a coaching session HERE. All of my coaching sessions are confidential. 

I wish you a wonderful – peaceful holiday season. 

May the PEACE be with YOU! 

Teuta

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