Are people around you all wound up and snappish? Despite all of the talk of happiness and joy, I find that people are more stressed and anxious leading up to the holidays. There are a lot of obligations to meet, school events, parties, cookies to bake, presents to finish, and everything starts to pile up. Our ambitions can get ahead of our capacities, and we get stressed. When we’re stressed, we might snap at others.
Underneath all of those actions, though, are often the best of intentions. We DO sincerely feel those best wishes we spread around. We ARE grateful for those teachers who open our children’s minds to new ideas. We DO feel joy when we see family members we don’t see nearly as often as we might like.
We feel those positive feelings underneath it all, but we still have that list of obligations to get through. Sometimes it is difficult to be present enough in the moment to focus on that deeper feeling.
For those stressful times to turn into negative experiences, it usually takes two people feeling bad and taking it out on another. I see that happening all around me.
On top of that, we are setting a pattern of expectations for our children. If holidays bring on a stressful time for our children, they will have a more difficult time feeling that joy year after year.
How do we stop the cycle of stress?
I suggest that you slow down just enough to bring compassion into your interactions with others. Recognize that the people around you are doing their best and falling short, just like you and I are. We all are. It’s OK! Extend a genuine smile, a handshake, a kiss on your child’s forehead as the stress starts to show around the edges.
Practice compassionate communication with your children, with the people around you, and even with yourself. That starts with listening and understanding what the other person feels.
Give yourself a break. If your expectations exceed your capacity, scale back. Let go of what isn’t working.
Have a joyful holiday season, and spread that joy to all you meet.
Are you interested in learning more about compassionate communication? A basic book that any parent can read is Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values. Another more specific to parenting is Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way. Follow the links below to IndieBound to find an independent bookseller in your area that carries either book.
Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication. http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781892005038
Marshall Rosenberg, Raising Children Compassionately. http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781892005090