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Fending Off Family Feuds During the Festivities
Rock-solid tips for any family situation this holiday season.

The holidays are a time for fun, not fighting.

This holiday season needs an emergency infusion of joy and spontaneity to counteract a falling economy, election withdrawal, seasonal affective disorder, a loss of personal empowerment, and stress.

Ideally, your social network consisting of family and friends can generate humor and joy helping to redirect your attention from what you don’t have to what you do have. However, in reality they can be rude, insensitive and as much fun as a stomach virus. When you recall past holiday get-togethers with family and friends, you often realize why you see these people only once a year.

People who push your buttons most likely know you quite well. Sometimes it’s a role you both share and is based on birth order or seniority. You might be forty years old, but you are still a little sister. However, sometimes it’s not them but you—your personal stressors making you highly sensitive to criticism and even worse, making you more critical of them! Could you be goading them into behaving badly?

Then there’s your spouse who is your mirror. When you are most angry with yourself, feeling stressed, depleted, unattractive, insignificant and under-accomplished, you can lash out and blame it all on your partner, the nearest and dearest recipient. After all, in your universe you are always right and everyone else is always wrong! It’s time to lift the veil and perceive the pattern.

The first principle of stress management is preparation, much like you would prepare a meal. You get good ingredients, follow a recipe and play with it a bit to personalize it and then dinner is served.

So, here are the ingredients:

* 1 cup of self-esteem
* 1/2 cup of resentment

Set aside time for the self-esteem to rise and put aside the half-cup of resentment. Adorn the self-esteem when it’s ready and serve with a triumphant smile. Drink a cup of cheer and put down that cup of resentment.

Here’s how to do it differently this holiday season.

* Prepare to set aside time to reflect and identify what you are good at doing. For example, "I am good at being honest," "I am a great improviser," or "I love to try new things and experiment." Consequently, you will feel good about yourself during a party or dinner because you know your unique ability. If you don’t know how you differ from others, then it’s best that you find out before the gathering and commit to some cause or course of action to feel like you have status.

* Dress to brand yourself at the get-together. You don’t need fancy clothes or expensive accessories. You do need to express who you are through color and accessories, however. How do you want others to perceive you: Energetic, witty, powerful, spiritual or artsy?

* Exercise beforehand. Exercise will relax you and get all the tension out of your body and mind. The endorphin rush will make you the life of the party. You will look better and can talk about your workout. If you don’t exercise, then start now so you can preach to everyone how important exercise is for health.

* Prepare witty remarks, anecdotes, stories to deflect the barbs and rude questions. You know what they are because they are always the same. So, if you are asked why you are out of work, respond, "I am taking time off to contemplate my spirituality." Who will dare argue with you about that?

*Disarm them with your charm. Compliment the button pushers liberally and you will be deemed perceptive. You are establishing your appreciation and everyone wants to be appreciated.

* Beat them to it! Ask questions immediately and the button pushers will talk about themselves and you will be regarded as a great conversationalist. Keep up the momentum by summarizing their points and asking follow-up questions. There will be no time left for them to direct their attention to your sensitive issues. In this way, you establish your affiliation with them. Affiliation, according to Dr. Daniel Shapiro, director of the Harvard International Negotiation Initiative, is key to handling conflict. Now go enjoy that great mix of body, mind and spirit. I drink to your health!

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of "Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life", "Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout" and "Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul," a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City, produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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