It’s that time of year again: the holidays—a chance to gather, celebrate, and reconnect with family you may not see very often. Unfortunately, behind the cheer of the season lies an unbelievable amount of stress. Why? Looming end-of-the-year deadlines, holiday travel, financial pressures, and less daylight are just a few reasons. But across the board, the biggest holiday stressor I see my clients coping with is family.
No family is perfect, and as much as you may wish you could, it’s impossible to control the actions of others. What you can control are the ways in which you approach your family before, during, and after the holidays—which can make all the difference. From the aunt who constantly grills you about your love life to the nutty, politically impassioned grandpa with no filter, with some mental preparation, you can use the virtues of Bushido to stay sane.
Loyalty is a crucial virtue of Bushido to keep in mind during the holidays. Consider one of my favorite quotes: “No matter how difficult things get, I will always hold your hand.” Being loyal to the ones you love means staying loyal even when things get hard. Of course, strained family relationships are difficult, but keeping loyalty at the forefront of your relationships will help you roll with the punches.
The virtue of compassion can help us better understand where a difficult family member is coming from. We often make sweeping character judgments about a person when we disagree with them. For example, if you aren’t getting along with your mother, you may think, “My mom is crazy.” Now, before establishing this rigid view of her, try to understand what is happening on her end that is making her act this way. Coming from a place of compassion will help you see more clearly.
To Engage, or to Disengage?
Decide which fights are actually worth fighting. Although it may be tempting to react when fired up, it’s often much more powerful to disengage. It’s important to establish boundaries around difficult discussion. If a family member is provoking you and you take the bait, that person just got exactly what they were looking for. How does this fight benefit you? Because the chances are you won’t change the person you’re arguing with. When it comes to family members you don’t agree with, the fight is rarely worth it.
Know What to Expect
My cousin yells a lot—she always has. So I can expect she will do the same during the holidays. Knowing this has helped me mentally prepare for what is most likely going to happen. Setting reasonable expectations will decrease your anger and shock when a person inevitably acts out of line. We all hope that everyone will get along and act appropriately during the holidays, but when your don’t take into account a person’s historical behavior, you’re the one making the mistake.
Consider this: using the warrior mind-set can help you in any battle, even the personal ones.