Contributed by Jennifer Lo, Management Consultant and a Certified Trainer with Equilibrium Dynamics.
EQD Trainee Perspectives: In our last post, we heard from three of our trainees, who shared their reflections on holiday stress and how to plan for a smoother season next year. One of our trainees, Jennifer Lo, wrote an expanded reflection on a topic dear to many of our hearts: navigating family dynamics during the holiday season. She shares how her blended family uses emotional competence skills to make the most of the holidays.
The shiny ornaments and lights were going up; holiday shopping deals flooding email inboxes, and cafes and restaurants all over the Bay Area were serving up pumpkin spice- or peppermint-flavored everything. It was the time of year, more than any other, when we should honor love and family. This is great in theory, but our blended family can’t help but experience some cynicism. Honoring family and feeling thankful requires a bit of emotional competence effort.
My daughter lives with us full-time, and my spouse has two children who live with us part-time. This year, my stepdaughters returned to their mom the morning after Thanksgiving. On Christmas, we weren’t going to see them at all. So two of our daughters had to wait almost a week after Christmas to see their presents. It's a year that really challenged us emotionally. Sometimes, the general spirit of “holiday giving” can come to mean a sense of “holiday giving up” instead. Just answering the question, “How do you plan to spend the holidays with your family this year?” invites uncomfortable conversations about our entire family structure.
To keep the holiday spirit alive, my spouse and I checked-in on our emotions and used the EQD “big four” concepts: thinking, feeling, good judgment, and action. We reminded each other to remain flexible in case of changes and to stay focused as a team so that we can help our girls deal with all of the transitions. With the range of holiday stressors, being able to process what's happening right now (thinking), reflecting on our emotions (feeling), and carefully deciding which problems to address (good judgment) helped us to make the best decisions possible, so that we could fully enjoy the time when we were all together (action). These particular issues recur every year for us, and although it can be challenging, it is important to differentiate between what's happening in the moment and any residual bitterness from events in the past. These EQD concepts helped us build in time to pause and reflect, and think deeply about short- and long-term decisions.
Reflecting on the holiday stress from last year, all the pre-holiday strategizing and planning seems worth the extra effort. Making sure we didn't overbook ourselves really helped us enjoy quality time with friends and loved ones. With a more reasonable schedule, instead of trying to do everything and see everybody, it reduced the holiday stress so much that I can't recall it being a bother at all at this point! The lasting memories from the holidays are of joy, peace and love!
Efforts put into emotional competence really can pay off.
.April 10, 2015