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More PsychNotes: Communication

December 5, 2016       

Steps to Reduce Holiday Stress When Encountering Family Demands
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

  • Read: A Rational Approach to the Holidays

  • winter wreath
    1) Consider your needs and desires. Become aware of your needs. Ask yourself what it is that you want. Do this without censoring your thoughts--allow yourself to consider freely your needs. "If I could do anything I want without any consequences, what would it be?"

    2) Determine the real consequences, not the imagined ones. Consider that if you did what you want, what the consequences, in reality, would be. Don't catastrophize. Will your mother truly never speak to you again or will she just be disappointed? If she truly will never speak to you again, perhaps it's not a healthy relationship and the holidays are the least of your problems.

    3) Rationally assess the consequences. Once you have established the realistic consequences, determine if you can live with them. If the consequence is disappointing your mother and you feel you can't live with it, ask yourself if you are taking too much responsibility for her feelings. She's choosing to feel disappointment because of her own belief system. You are not responsible for that.

    4) Examine how to address the problem. If you can live with the consequences, determine whether you know how to implement the behavior. For instance, sometimes a person may be willing to refuse an expectation but not know how to do so without engaging in a battle. That individual may need to learn some assertiveness skills. Assertive communication is voicing your own needs or opinion respectfully without violating the needs of others. Assertion is direct and to the point about your needs.

    5) Put your plan into action. Finally, choose to act. You can choose to live with the frustration related to dealing with your family's expectations and suffer the consequences, or you can choose to change your interactions with them. The important thing, however, is to recognize that you do have a choice. Even that recognition can reduce the amount of stress you experience from the situation.

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