The holidays promise magic, warmth, and glad tidings, but only too often you hear people dreading the upcoming festivities because of family drama —be it political, personal, or what have you. It’s only too easy to let anticipated discord soil the wonder and hope of this time of year.
What can you do?
Here are four steps to keeping your inner Ebenezer at bay:
Pause, but Don’t Escape
Oftentimes, people choose to escape when life gets hectic. Escapism can look like a number of things: indulging a little more in that eggnog Aunt Mimi brought, or simply walking out of a situation and ignoring its reality.
The ways we choose to escape are endless, and we usually attempt to hoodwink ourselves into believing that escapism is a healthy way of coping. It’s “self-care.” But in reality, escapism is just that: escaping a problem for the time being. Emphasis on “for the time being” because nothing is resolved when we escape, it’s just prolonged. Oftentimes, it can even add to the issue at hand.
So, instead of escaping, pause. If you’re stressed out about the state of your home, take a walk, pray the rosary, take a quick drive, visit a drive through coffee shop. Use this time to reorient. When you return, you know that the problem will still be there, but you’ve taken the time to garner a new perspective and gained additional energy (thank you, double shot of espresso). Oftentimes all we need is a breather and a better focus.
Ask yourself: am I escaping or am I pausing? Am I running from my problems, or am I trying to catch my breath so I can better handle things, maintain inner peace, and be present with my loved ones? The difference between escapism and pausing may not look like much to a careless observer, but believe me, it’s colossal.
“Dignity, Always Dignity!”
Have you seen Singing in the Rain? In the beginning, Gene Kelly is asked about his life story; he responds with all the charm in the world, that throughout life he had one motto, “Dignity, always dignity!” As he debonairly asserts this, we see a montage of moments from his life that are anything but dignified.
When things are going crazy, I love to use this ridiculous line as my own mental script.
One, because it conjures up a humorous scene from a beloved film; so already, when things go south recalling this ironic statement helps me to reassess and be less emotive.
Secondly, once past the irony, it’s actually a practical reminder that I get to choose. While there are so many things outside of my control, how I respond is always my decision. I choose dignity. I choose to respond with grace and kindness. Maybe that means biting my tongue till it’s numb, gently confronting, or simply smiling. My response is up to me, so if other people are choosing to stir the pot, I can choose to throw away the proverbial spoon.
There will always be individuals who thrive on drama and look to be offended, but that kind of behavior can stop with me because “dignity, always dignity.” If you enjoy drama, tune into Netflix but don’t bring it as a side for dinner.
While this script might not work as well for you as it does for me (bit of an old movie aficionado), find one that does and commit it to heart. It’s really mind blowing how recalling a few simple words can change the course of the evening.
Your Tone Matters
When we get stressed out, our body language and tone often reveal this. It’s easy to get inflamed when provoked, but we need to first be honest with ourselves. Did I start any of this? How am I contributing?
You know the old saying, it takes two to tango.
When drama abounds, we often get blurry vision and fail to see our own pitfalls. We can go over a challenging situation and swear that everything we said was fine and innocuous, but we don’t just communicate with words! Our tone, body language, even the way we dress, all make a statement. We need to be mindful of not just what we say but how we say it.
What is your tone like? Is it time to retire the sarcasm?
Go to Christ
Most importantly, we need to be Christ-centered. Christ is the Prince of Peace and He needs to be the King of our Hearts. Only when we live for Him can we cultivate a peaceful, loving environment and navigate the more challenging moments of life.
When Christ is the center, everything else falls into place. We realize how blessed we are; how much good there is in our lives. He has given us far more than we deserve, and we have so much to give thanks for. Oftentimes, when we turn our eyes to Christ, what once seemed like a gargantuan issue shrinks into a trivial matter.
Joy is never far away when Christ is Our King because we have His consolation, love, and mercy.
So this year, if you’re feeling a little curmudgeonly, pause, come up with a script, be honest with yourself, and most importantly, focus on what really matters.
Remember: your inner Grinch does not need to make an appearance— after all, he has nothing to wear. 😉