Christmas can be a wonderful time of the year to get together for family fun and festivities – but it’s also a time when emotions can run high.
It brings its own set of pressures and creates stress for many people.
Add together a bunch of different personalities, political viewpoints, simmering resentments - and alcohol - and you have a recipe for disaster.
The best thing you can do is be prepared and have some simple strategies to defuse tension around the dinner table.
1. Pace yourself and set limits
Plan your alcohol intake for the day. According to Alcohol.Think Again, “research tells us that even when people intend to drink responsibly, it can be difficult to stick to this plan because getting drunk is often an accepted norm, there is often social pressure to drink and the setting makes it easy to drink large amounts.” Make sure you alternate alcoholic drinks with water and drink slowly.
2. Practice humility
Be respectful of different opinions.
3. Be curious
If you find it impossible to respect a different opinion, adopt a sense of curiosity instead. This will allow you to remove yourself emotionally from the argument. Try to show an interest in the other person's hopes and fears, and put yourself in their shoes.
4. Have a diversion plan
If tensions are escalating, have a couple of topics on hand that will help defuse the situation. It might be as clichéd as the weather, your health or the funny thing your pet did the other day. If all else fails, read out the bad joke in the cracker. Or pull out a board game like Pictionary, Monopoly or Scrabble.
5. Get enough sleep
You’re bound to feel irritable if you haven’t had enough sleep. Make sleeping a priority over the holiday period and you'll be better prepared mentally to deal with difficult people and challenging situations.
6. Take a breather
If you find yourself getting drawn into an argument, remove yourself from the situation. Go to the kitchen and start stacking the dishwasher, or head outside for 10 minutes.
7. Remember to breathe
Inhale for three breaths, hold it for the fourth breath, then exhale for four breaths. Keep breathing like this until you feel calm, then move on.