Everyone knows the holiday season can be stressful. Budgeting for gifts, talking to family members you don’t regularly speak to, plus this whole pandemic thing 2020 threw at us. Emotions are running rampant, and we often lose control of how others affect our already overloaded feelings. Believe me, I know! My mother-in-law stopped by on Thanksgiving and visited with us outside, safely. She and I don’t have the best relationship anymore, so I try to avoid even looking at her because even my facial expressions are opinionated. While she was here, I had to frequently check in with myself. How am I feeling right now? Am I okay? I also had to remind myself that the past is the past, and it’s not up to me to make her let it go. I can only control that about myself.
A lot of people struggle with letting go of negative emotions caused by others. We often mentally blame the other person for making us feel such anger or frustration, or even sadness. But the reality is, we are only in control of ourselves. It’s healthy to remind ourselves that we shouldn’t let others dictate how we feel, or set the mood for the rest of our day.
The first step in doing this is to plan ahead. Who might we encounter today? How do they normally make us feel? What do they usually do to make us feel this way? Evaluate your own moods for the day. Can we handle this person today? If not, it’s okay to cancel your plans, or simply not show up. If you have no choice, remind yourself to be mindful of how you’re feeling before, during, and after seeing or interacting with them. This allows you to control your own emotions if you notice you’re starting to react negatively.
Then make a plan on how to self-soothe, or calm yourself down in the event you get too worked up. One idea is to ask a friend or several friends if you can message them as an escape. Other options are to plan a trip to the bathroom, or act like you need to take a phone call in another room or outside. Take this time to take deep breathes, in waves like the ocean. Maybe get your mind off of the situation by scrolling through memes or whatever makes you laugh online.
During the interaction, stay mindful of which emotions are your own and which ones are being triggered by this person or group of people. This helps you stay aware of how you’re feeling and will make it easier to identify when you need a break. Remind yourself that you are only in control of yourself! Too often, we get worked up in our emotions and try to control others as a defense, which escalates a situation pretty fast.
Above all, remind yourself that you can do this, because you have planned ahead and have the tools to get through it. You will be home or back in your comfort zone before you know it.