The Holidays are here.

I know a little something about the holidays.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was a time when my family gathered at my paternal grandmother’s apartment after stopping by my maternal grandmother’s in the afternoon. We were the depiction of what was often Round 1 in the fighting that occurs around this momentous event… who is going to host dinner? This is the stuff that treaties were made for. In my family, this was the easy part.

Showing up and lasting till the final round took a lot more stamina. Hunger, alcohol and festering wounds were a Molotov cocktail in the hands of five sisters itching for a fight, one brother and mother who wanted peace and the rest of us who just wanted to eat!

I learned a few things during those years.

1. Have a Stress Plan

My guess is that most of us have a plan for the food, the travel, the seating and even the arguments, but what about the stress? Unlike the stuffing, it doesn’t have to come with the turkey.

Make a plan for handling the annoyances and problems that may come with the day. I mean something that’s not illegal. Write it down and then follow it. It could be as simple as making a deliberate time for prayer, meditation, silence, breathing, stretching, journaling or drawing or all of the above.

Start with 5 – 10 minutes the night before and then first thing in the morning. To make it even more powerful, keep it going through your day by combining one of these with another task. Try basting the turkey while taking ten 8-second breaths. Incorporating a stress plan could be just the thing to get you through the day still smiling.

2. Visualize a Different Outcome

I put off a recent physical three times, because of the difficult conversation I expected and dreaded with my doctor over my recent weight gain. On the day that I convinced myself to go, I decided right before I walked in the door to envision a different outcome. I visualized us having a conversation that involved her
listening, respecting and not fat-shaming me, where the two of us worked together on my plan for better health. That is exactly what happened.

I was so impressed that when she told me my blood pressure was too high and she would have to give me additional medication unless it came down before I left her office, I combined visualization with belly breathing to bring it down to normal.

It’s been proven that we get more of what we focus on. So, focus on what you want not on what you don’t want. Visualize that conversation with your mother-in-law going the way you would like it to. See yourself staying calm in the moment and BREATHE.

3. Laugh More

Laughter lowers blood pressure and stress levels and there is plenty to laugh about during the holidays. Laughing when something is obviously funny is one thing, but finding the humor in the awkward moments is MAGIC. Even if you can’t do it in the moment, engage in a laugh fest later.

My youngest son does wicked impressions and his recaps of the day are legendary. He leaves us all in stitches. His special gift is in replaying each of us in our difficult moments and the release of laughter feels good. So laugh, it will be over soon.

4. Try Forgiveness

Understand that people are who they are and are dealing with their own “ish.” It’s tough, but sit back and think about what not allowing yourself to forgive is doing to your heart and well-being. If you can extend the step to having a conversation about something that you both enjoy and leave out the tough stuff, then give it a try.

5. Breathe…

That’s it. Breathe. In through your nose to the count of three. Hold for three. Out through your mouth to the count of three. 5 rounds of this breathing. Start when you wake up. A couple of times during the preparations. Doorbell rings or you arrive at the house. Breathe. Drama jumps off. Breathe… And then give thanks that you are here to see another Thanksgiving.

I don’t miss the drama, but I sure do miss my aunts. Four of them and both my dad and mom are gone and as bad as it was, I’m glad I was there. I wish they had learned what I’ve shared here with you.

Thanksgiving is a short holiday. Be thankful for who you love and who loves you even in their brokenness.


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