Lifestyle: Coping with conflict at Christmas

Screen shot 2015-12-21 at 13.40.09Unbelievably it is that time of year again. Now I’m not a Christian, I’m a yoga teacher but I do observe the holiday because everyone else on the planet does too and I enjoy many of the rituals it brings although I do wish we could switch it to a Winter Solstice celebration instead. Christmas comes around quicker each year that’s for sure and it brings with it a multitude of emotional booby-traps (note that’s boob-y and not boob traps to any of the boys who might be stirring with excitement reading this). As much as you might be looking forward to watching grandpa Jack lose his teeth in the trifle or aunty Stella’s knicker elastic break leaving them to fall round her ankles mid karaoke rendition of “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart but the very next day, you gave it away…” for the second year in a row, you may not be looking forward to the friction that many family gatherings can bring.

You know the scenario. You’re mid mouthful of turkey (or nut roast), when your mum decides now is a good time to remind you that “if you’d just studied a bit harder for that exam when I told you to, maybe you’d have got into X university instead of bumming around travelling for a year and maybe by now you’d have a good job and a mortgage instead of…” After 3 glasses of sherry plus bucks fizz plus cider and/or beer, your blood already feels warm so the heat of anger rising over your face goes almost unnoticed before you explode in defence.

That’s if you are even able to spend time with your family because if they’re anything like mine, no amount of love for them can remove the ‘dys’ from the word functional making being around them for longer than a couple of hours, completely impossible.

Even the healthiest families aren’t always blessed with the ability to sail through the festive period without a glitch

Pressures like spending long amounts of time together in a confined space, expectations from siblings, parents and children on the kinds of presents they’ll be given and financial strain as we stretch the budget to entertain can be the catalyst for upset and argument.

Having spent a good deal of time over the last few months learning better ways to communicate with my girlfriend since my parents failed me on that front, I now feel in a position to share some of these with you and hope that you will apply them not only to your intimate relationships but to the wider family too. As a mature adult, I had the sense to realise that drinking 3 bottles of vodka before bringing up the debate about whether or not we should be visiting a fetish club (yes there are some interesting conversations in our house) was probably not the best idea however, I hadn’t before understood that it was possible to have a conversation about something that made me angry without finding myself shouting or behaving aggressively. I know. A yoga teacher getting angry? Surely that doesn’t happen?

Er. Reality check. We are all at the mercy of our emotions and as human beings, we will always experience the full range of them – unless we have a mental health issue which may prevent it.

It also turns out, on my travels, that there are a few tricks we can learn to stop arguments getting out of hand in the first place and how we can overcome them to make peace when they do happen. The following resources have been of great help and are applicable not only in intimate relationships but familial and sometimes professional ones too.

One – learn to apologise properly

Two – how to avoid the argument

Three – be assertive in your communication and not aggressive. This video is long and in-depth but amazingly helpful in understanding how our emotions can rule us, why and how we can better handle them

Above all, don’t fall into the trap of beating yourself up if arguments happen. Leave that job to the friends and family.

May your Christmas be filled with peace and joy!