The holidays are a time to reflect on what we are grateful for and make plans to spend time with family and friends. Although it is nice to have some time off and recharge, it can also be a bit stressful around the gathering table. Even though we love our dear ones, we can find ourselves sometimes triggered by comments, topics of discussion, and behaviors. We’ve all been there when an uncle brings up a political difference, or a sibling recalls a childhood memory we would rather forget. Or someone comments on your bland casserole. Here are some tips on managing your trigger points when they flare up!
Breathe: When we are triggered, our heart rate increases and our breathing becomes shallow. Take the time to take a deep breath. Remember six, four, seven. Breathe in for six seconds, hold for four, and exhale for seven. This can be done subtly and without drawing attention to yourself. It can reset your heart rate and get your breathing back on track so you can think more clearly.
Don’t engage: This seems simple, and yet it is hard to do, especially when it is a topic you feel passion around. Just ask yourself: “For the sake of what? Why do I have to respond? Is it worth engaging? What will I gain by sharing my viewpoint?”
Step away: Find a reason to head to the kitchen. Step outside for some fresh air. By leaving the conversation, you can gather your thoughts and distance yourself from the heat that you might feel.
Change the subject: We certainly don’t encourage this as an effective listening technique, but this can be a situation when it can work! Bring up the local football team, comment on someone’s great cooking, tell a funny story or share what you are grateful for. This can steer the conversation into a different direction.
We know we appreciate our loved ones, and we also know that those we love can sometimes trigger us the most. Practice patience and pause and your holiday gathering will be full of gratitude.