Resiliently Handling Difficult Relationships At Christmas

When it comes to Christmas, on the one hand we can be excited about seeing our family and friends and on the other hand we can be nervous about seeing our family and friends. From underlying tension between you and your partner or you and your in-laws, to having to answer questions from loved ones about your career, dating life or bearing children, the opportunities for stress and overwhelm can be plentiful.

To help you look forward to all of the festive fun you’re going to be involved in, rather than dreading it or looking for excuses not to go to a party, here are some resilience and relationship tips to help you.

Difficult Relationship Scenario 1

There are underlying relationship tensions between you and your in-laws. It’s understandable if you’re feeling apprehensive about seeing family members who don’t treat you with due compassion or respect; it’s hurtful and it’s difficult.

Solution For Resiliently Handling Difficult Relationship Scenario 1

Research demonstrates that when we are already in a positive emotional state before we encounter a challenge, we will manage it much more resiliently. So, before you are due to meet up with unkind in-laws, make sure you indulge some self-care in terms of feeling good and looking good so that you can boost your inner resilience and your confidence. For example, have some quality ‘me time’ and this may mean time-out from the noise of the world (online and offline) so that you can relax your mind and body, without being constantly pulled in different directions. Also, focus on doing things that make you feel happy and make you feel good about yourself. For example, take a relaxing soak in the bath or getting a massage to release mental and bodily tension accumulated from all areas of life, or get your hair/nails done or buy a nice outfit to help you feel like a valuable human being. Your brain is paying attention to how you are treating yourself, make sure you are reinforcing your self-worth with good self-care.

Difficult Relationship Scenario 2

There are family members who are likely to level negative comments at you, albeit subtly. They make you very angry and upset and you’re fed up of it.

Solution for Resiliently Handling Difficult Relationship Scenario 2

Christmas is a time for everyone to enjoy themselves and so you don’t want to use this time to air grievances with the difficult people in your life. If you know the sort of comments a person is likely to come out with, based on past experiences, pre-rehearse some one- or two-sentence responses you can deliver when the moment arises so that you go in armed with non-inflammatory responses that make you feel confidently prepared to answer hurtful comments levelled at you. If it’s backhanded compliments, just say ‘Thank you’ (however insulting you know they are trying to be) and move the conversation on with someone else. If they ask questions about your personal life in a derogatory way, you can answer with things like, ‘I’m making progress on it, thank you, what else is new with you?’ or, ‘I’m proud of the progress I’ve made but don’t feel like discussing that stuff right now. What else have you been up to recently?’. That way you’re answering without giving details, painting a picture of positivity despite them trying to disparage you, and then you immediately change the conversation.

Difficult Relationship Scenario 3

You and your partner are going through a difficult time in your relationship right now but don’t want this to overshadow festivities for loved ones or yourselves.

Solution for Resiliently Handling Difficult Relationship Scenario 3

Use this time of goodwill to be more compassionate, empathic and thoughtful towards each other. Practise having intelligent communications, which are reflective rather than reactive and this can sometimes mean not saying the first thing that comes to your mind when you’re in a negative emotional state and, therefore, neurologically unable to think as clearly as you would in a positive emotional state. Also, in advance of any social events, agree between yourselves which topics you’re best avoiding in front of others to prevent negative emotions and arguments. A mutually agreed neutral or positive buzzword (e.g. bumble) to remind each of this when one of you accidentally brings up a sensitive subject, will help. Also spend time being tactile with each other and smiling genuinely at each other because both release feel good chemicals within us and help us to relax. Physical touch, because of its release of oxytocin, also helps us to feel safe and bond with each other.

Replenish your resilience, be prepared, and focus your attention on positive people and experiences as much as possible. Happy holidays from me! xx

My new book, ‘Resilient Me: How To Worry Less and Achieve More’, published by Orion Spring is out now: