Yes, it’s the “most wonderful time of the year”, but as we all know it can also be a very hectic and stressful time as well! Here are some good tips to keeping your most important relationships protected from that stress!

1. Do what you need to do for you.
Everyone has personal needs, whether it’s going to the gym or taking some alone time on Saturday morning. If someone asks you to do something and your instinct is to honor your own need, do that. That doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes make sacrifices, but it’s important to make a habit of taking care of yourself.

2. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
It’s tempting to doubt people. To assume the worst when you get snubbed from your friend’s holiday party, or that your sister meant to hurt you by not sending you a Christmas card this year! People who care about you want you to feel happy, even if sometimes they get too wrapped up in their own problems to show it well. If you want to get good will, share it by seeing the best in the people you love. When you assume the best, you often inspire it.

3. Look at yourself for the solution to the problem first.
When you feel unhappy with yourself, it’s easy to find something wrong in a relationship. If you blame another person for what you’re feeling, the solution is on them. But this is faulty logic. For starters, it gives them all the control. And secondly, it usually doesn’t solve the problem since you didn’t address the root cause. Next time you feel the need to blame someone for your feelings, ask yourself if there’s something else going on. You may find there’s something underlying; something you did or should have done. Taking responsibility for the problem gives you the power to find a solution.

4. Be mindful of projecting.
In psychology, projecting refers to denying your own traits and then ascribing them to the outside world or other people. For example, if you’re not a loyal and trusting friend, you may assume your friends are out to get you. It’s a defense mechanism that allows you to avoid the discomfort of acknowledging your weaknesses. This comes back to self-awareness, and it’s hard work. Acknowledging your flaws isn’t fun, but if you don’t you’ll continue seeing them in everyone around you.

5. Choose your battles.
Don’t let everything bother you. When you aren’t sure if you need to address a problem, ask yourself these questions:

Does this happen often and leave me feeling bad?
Does this really matter in the grand scheme of things?
Can I empathize with their feelings instead of dwelling on my insecurity?

6. Confront clearly and with compassion.
A person’s natural instinct when attacked is to defend themselves, which usually gets you nowhere. It usually results in a loud conversation where two people do their best to prove they’re right and the other is wrong. It’s rarely black and white, and doesn’t often get resolved in this fashion. If you approach someone with compassion, you will open their hearts to hear what you have to say. Show them you understand where they’re coming from, and they’ll be willing to see your side. When you let someone know what you need at the right time and in the right way, you’re more likely to be well-received by them.

7. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
There are all kinds of ways you can feel vulnerable in relationships. When you express your feelings. When you’re honest about yourself or your past. When you admit to a mistake. People don’t always reveal these things, because they want to maintain a sense of power, but that is simply a superficial sense of control. Vulnerability allows you a sense of authenticity. That’s love: being your true self and allowing someone else to do the same without letting fear or judgment tear it down. Like Jimi Hendrix said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

8. Think before acting on emotion.
I don’t know about you, but this one is hard for me. As soon as I feel hurt, frustrated or angry, I want to react. This is never a good idea. Your initial emotional reaction may not truly reflect how you really feel about something. When you feel a strong emotion, try to sit on it for a while. When you learn to observe your feelings before acting on them, you minimize the negativity you create in two ways: you process, analyze and deal with feelings before projecting them on someone else, and you communicate in a way that will inspire someone to stay open instead of shutting down.

9. Maintain boundaries.
When people get close, boundaries can get fuzzy. In a relationship without boundaries, you can be manipulated into doing things you don’t want to. You may act out of guilt instead of honoring your needs. You may let someone offend you without telling them how you feel about it. You need to love and respect yourself enough to help teach others how you want to be treated. Acknowledge what you need and speak up! The only way to truly have loving, peaceful relationships is to start with a loving, peaceful relationship with yourself.

10. Enjoy people’s company more than their approval.
When you desperately need someone’s approval, your relationship becomes all about what they do for you, how often they stroke your ego, how well they bring you up when you feel down or mitigate your negative feelings. This is draining for the other person and creates an unbalanced relationship. Instead of focusing on what you can get from that person, focus on enjoying their company, and your time together. Oftentimes, the best thing you can do for yourself and someone else is to let go and give yourself permission to smile.

So enjoy this Holiday season! And think about what you can do to create and maintain peaceful loving relationships.

Source: Lori Deschene, Founder of Tiny Buddha

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