Skip to main content

Holidays, Relatives, and Keeping Our Sanity

It’s that time of year where family and friends gather for festivities and holiday cheer. But sometimes, cheer is in short supply, especially when relationships experience conflicts. Turmoil within our closest relationships can sometimes make or break our holiday spirit. It does not matter how old you are, get-togethers can be challenging. So as the holidays progress, here are some helpful reminders of improving and maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family to enjoy the most of this season and the end of 2014.
First off, believe and understand that you are not the only one having a difficult time. By acknowledging that others may be experiencing similar difficulties, it may help reduce feelings of inadequacy or self-criticism when you engage with friends and family.

Next, consider your current emotional state and ask yourself if you typically feel frustrated or aggravated with those around you. It’s a difficult task, but if you are reacting and responding to others differently than you usually do, it’s beneficial to return to your typical emotional state.

When you find yourself stressed, frustrated or aggravated, take a moment for yourself. Taking a break and even removing yourself from challenging situations can reduce conflict and internal turmoil. For example, you can leave the room for a few moments or even go for a walk to reduce negative emotional experiences.
Also, when friends or family say something less appealing, try not to take it to heart. If you do not take comments personally, you will have a greater ability to exhibit conscious choices and responses. If you can limit feeling personally attacked by others, you may find it easier to observe the dynamics of relationships around you (both friends and family).

It’s surprising how much you can learn by simply observing those around you.

You may identify individuals who are quick to attack and criticize, seek attention and even avoid conflicts. Additionally, showing compassion to those closest to you can greatly reduce negative interactions with others. Showing compassion and even empathy to friends and family experiencing a difficult time of year is likely to reduce unnecessary conflict during holiday get-togethers.

So remember, as the year draws closer to an end, try to prevent holiday blues associated with poor interactions of those closest to you. When holiday cheer is lacking because relationships have become more challenging, take a moment and reflect on these helpful reminders. If your relationships flourish during these holidays, it is likely your mental health will as well. Be prepared to use your positive coping strategies and be mindful of your own responses around others. Positive relationships and interactions with others begins with you.

Popular posts from this blog

Let's Talk About "All In Your Head"

If I had to vote for a phrase, just 4 short words, that cause more problems in our society than most others it would be these:
All in your head.
To hear these words as a person with medical symptoms brings about such a cascade of thoughts. Anything from "My doctor doesn't believe me" to "Are my symptoms really happening?" with corresponding emotions of anxiety, confusion, anger, even rage.
I spend a lot of time undoing the damage these 4 words can do in the patients I see. They've been told, either directly or indirectly, their disease is psychologically based. And that means it's really not that bad, that they should just get over it and move on. It's a running thread in most of the patients with any "functional" diagnosis I've seen, such as irritable bowel syndrome, but also appears in those with "organic" conditions - those diseases perceived as real like inflammatory bowel disease.
These 4 words are part of the fundamenta…

Bubbles

I've been thinking a lot about how we live in an era of infinite access to infinite information (thanks, internet tubes!) yet we still fall into many of the well-established psychological laws, if we can call them that, of human behavior.  Don't worry, this isn't going to be some drawn out post on social psychology. Wikipedia is great for that.

I want to talk about bubbles.  Information bubbles, that is. And how each one of us lives in one to some extent, no matter how educated or enlightened we see ourselves to be. And even if we know we live in said bubble, it takes being shown information that directly conflicts with how you think things are, or should be, and the result is you feel kinda ew - the technical term for "ew" being cognitive dissonance.

I live in a bubble.

In my bubble is the world of academic medicine, academic health psychology, and a circle of psychologists dedicated to people living with chronic digestive illness.  I live in Chicago, a major me…

Medical PTSD

“It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.”  - Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five 
A few years ago, my gastroenterologist wanted me to have something called an esophageal manometry to better understand how my newly diagnosed eosinophilic esophagitis may have been affecting how the muscles in my esophagus were functioning.  I work with the guys who wrote the book on esophageal disease, and these guys do a lot of manometries. I know all about esophageal manometry.

My mind immediately went to images of a small bowel enteroclysis I'd had at least a decade prior. My body grew tense and it was almost as if I was back in that cold room with the cold metal table and the cold radiologist, who just didn't believe me when I told her how bad my gag reflex was before she placed a tube down my throat to inject my small intestines with barium.

It took what seemed like forever to get th…