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“Baby its Cold Outside” – Four Ways to Keep it Real During the Holidays

Do the holidays leave you cold?

Maybe you are apprehensive about those yearly holiday gatherings – at the office or with your family. Will they disappoint you even more than last year?  Or, are your setting your expectations too high by painting an unrealistic picture of a magical holiday season – gearing up for a letdown?

Either way, you may be underestimating or overestimating the reality of the situation that is external, or outside of yourself. Whether we fear the worst from situations, or put-on rose-colored glasses, each extreme is bound to cause us some trouble, especially during the holiday season when external expectations and demands are in overdrive.

The ability to objectively and unambiguously “read” the environment, the world outside of ourselves as it is, rather than how we wish it to be, is an Emotional Intelligence skill called Reality TestingTo have a balanced hold on reality, or to be skilled in this area, requires us to understand and manage our emotions and personal biases in order to remain objective about what is. It requires us to be alert as to whether we are either catastrophizing or putting our heads in the sand about our situations and relationships.

This can be hard to achieve during the holiday season when familial dynamics or office politics tax our emotional well-being on a deep level.

Here are four strategies you can employ to make sure you remain grounded in reality to reduce your stress throughout the holidays:

  • Challenge your judgment about others:

It’s human nature to make-up stories about others. We make unfounded assumptions that include everything from others’ ill intent to assigning negative character flaws or blame for something gone wrong. These made-up stories (sometimes projections) are thoughts that we carry over to future conversations; we look for bad things to happen in relationships.

Think of a family member, colleague or acquaintance that you have put in the negative bucket – someone you anticipate seeing at a holiday function.  Re-wind the last encounter with that person concentrating only on the verifiable factual events that occurred. Then, when you see this person at the event, look for evidence that counters your judgments.

  • Check out your thoughts with someone you trust:

Share your judgment about others with a trusted friend or colleague to gain perspective – someone you know to be grounded in reality. Provide them with a scenario of an event recounting both the facts and your opinions regarding what occurred, and what you thought about the others’ actions. Listen to and incorporate your trusted person’s perspective into your own thought process. Open yourself up to seeing that perspective when you next see the person you have judged.

  • Take time for self-care:

It is easier for us to remain calm, and thus grounded in reality when we actively manage our stress level through proper rest, exercise and nutrition. Despite the temptations of the season, (or in-between indulging) don’t forgo your exercise routine because you are too busy. Give yourself a holiday gift that includes an extra massage, and surround yourself with people that support and love you in-between holiday obligations.

  • Work to remain in the moment:

Reality Testing as a skill requires us to be in the moment. We need to be meta-observers of ourselves and question the truth around our negative impressions of others. In the moment, we need to ask ourselves if we are seeing things objectively? And, we need to concentrate on the other person and ask for clarification to make sure we are not misinterpreting the situation.

By following these tips, you will find that you can more objectively observe the emotional climate and inter-personal dynamics of the current situation as it unfolds. You may be able to side-step emotional landmines and take advantage of what the holiday season has to offer in a more balanced and pragmatic way. You might just expand your capacity to employ better coping mechanisms and find openings to add warmth to the relationships and situations that otherwise would have left you out in the cold.

Interested in learning more about you and your team’s Emotional Intelligence skills, and how they impact teamwork? The People Skills Group can help you tap into your natural intelligence and build skills to keep your team a well-oiled machine. Contact me for more information on tools and tips to help your team work better together: cindy@thepeopleskillsgroup.com   

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