Holiday traditions might not look exactly the same this year, but most families are carrying on the spirit of the season somehow.
Whether this means a smaller gathering or a family Zoom call, many people will still feel a familiar sense of stress as they prepare to catch up with loved ones. From political differences to unwanted opinions about your lifestyle choices or personal identity, it can feel like you’re maneuvering a minefield of argument-starting conversation topics.
As an Eastern philosophy scholar, I’ve learned a few strategies that will help you relax and find peace no matter who you’re spending the holidays with.
Set Your Mind in Small Increments
When it comes to preparing for stressful holiday gatherings, it is helpful to take a moment to set your mind and ground yourself. I am a firm believer in setting your mind in small increments. So instead of deciding you will not say anything political the entire holiday season, or that you’ll be kind to your least favorite uncle the entire Thanksgiving dinner—make the time frame smaller. Instead, say to yourself, for the next hour, I am going to be kind. And then the next hour, decide the same thing. This is a much more realistic way to watch our actions and words, and it is how we build good habits.
In this case, the good habit you are creating is the ability to not let stress or emotions overcome you. There is nothing wrong with sharing ideas and feelings, but if you see a conflict is on the rise, you are the only one who can choose to stop it. The amazing part about this technique is that the more you practice finding this balance, the easier it will become for you.
I like to remind myself that there was once a time when I did not know how to walk. With practice, I learned, and now it is something I never have to think about. The same thing occurs with other habits. At first, it may take a lot of patience and self-control to remain calm and not let others’ words or actions affect you, but if you practice letting it go, over time you will not find it difficult anymore. You will gain freedom from the situation.
Two Hands Make a Clap
One of my favorite sayings is “two hands make a clap.” When you find yourself in a tense situation, visualize your hands high-fiving and making a loud clap noise. Both hands move toward each other and equally create the noise. The same is true when two people with opposing views end up in an argument. It requires energy from both sides, and you always have the choice to not partake.
In moments of tension, ask yourself, what am I truly going to gain from saying or doing what I am thinking? If you can clearly see the only result will be frustration and disarray, don’t choose that road. If necessary, take a minute to remove yourself from the situation. Take five deep, slow breaths. This will help bring oxygen to your brain and allow your mind to calm down and reset. This will give you more strength to act wisely.
A Peaceful Strength
The final piece of advice I will give you in preparation for the holidays is to reflect more on this idea of strength. It is much easier to yell than to keep a level head when a situation gets tense. In many situations, remaining calm requires more strength than taking action. Life is filled with amazing moments and happiness, but it is also challenging. Ultimately, you are the only one who can control your mind and body, and there is strength in just knowing that. Otherwise, you are vulnerable to be dragged by the changing winds of life.
These points will help you this holiday season, and if you keep practicing them, you’ll soon be able to find harmony in any situation. You’ll learn to keep your emotions balanced and in control regardless of what is happening around you. You will retrain yourself to have better habits, and you’ll be able to fall asleep, peacefully reflecting on all the situations you were able to handle with ease. You’ll find long-term happiness and finally feel the sense of empowerment that trying to win an argument or convincing someone of your view never achieved.