How to Avoid Killing Your In-Laws, Your Wicked Step-Mother and Even Your Kids This Christmas!

23/12/2014 06:20 GMT | Updated 21/02/2015 10:59 GMT

With just a few days until the big day, you may be feeling overwhelmed with everything that still needs to be done; underwhelmed, wondering what all the fuss is about for just one day or even, God forbid, full of Christmas spirit! However you're feeling, you may have an underlying rumbling of anxiety that you'll be spending Christmas with people who would not necessarily be your top of your list!

Christmas is a time to reflect and celebrate all the love in the world, especially in your world. Yet one of the biggest challenges Christmas brings is being with family. Or more to the point, family members you don't particularly enjoy being with and/or their partners. It's an annual challenge if you have a big family - who to spend Christmas day with; who to spend Boxing Day with; who to prioritise; and how to schedule it with others who also have family obligations to fulfil. Most importantly, the test is how to co-ordinate the whole caboodle without offending anyone or totally compromising what you'd really love!

I won't pretend to have this all sewn up, but I am learning. I'm learning to get clearer on what I want during the Christmas season, who I want to spend my precious time with and how to negotiate a win win for all concerned. I am learning to speak up for what I'd love (and must confess to still being clumsy in my execution at times). The key I believe is intention. My intention is to honour my own heart and those that I love. In so doing, the logistical juggling and family politics are less invasive and can be met with more patience and compassion.

Despite that, it can still be difficult to be in a room with a person or people that press your buttons; people who may (in your opinion) be opinionated, self-righteous or just plain irritating. Again I invite you to remember, that if someone presses your buttons, it's your button they are pressing. It's actually your stuff, so acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, recognise it's your button and respond mindfully - or at least as mindfully as you possibly can in the moment!

What do I mean by mindful? Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn describes being mindful as

paying attention in a particular way, in the present moment and non-judgementally.
The key is being fully present in each moment and to not judge the words, deeds and behaviours of others. When we judge others we close ourselves down to joy, love and inner peace.

I appreciate being with family and letting go of judgement can be difficult especially because our closest family are usually the ones who know our buttons intimately and can push them easily and frequently. However, I invite you to be fully present with these moments and open to them with all your heart. Breathe deeply and stay still. Do your best to be fully present with your physical and emotional reaction and avoid snapping into reaction. Breathe again, catch yourself, notice your button and breathe even more deeply before you respond. Hopefully with the space that your breath gives you, you will be able to respond more healthily from your heart rather than your head.

Speaking from experience, I know this is not an easy request. I have made every mistake in the book - holding my tongue when perhaps I should have spoken up and flying off the handle when I perhaps could have kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. What I have learnt, however, is to prepare. I address the niggles before they arise, as best I can. I get clear on what will make my heart sing within the confines of family obligations and I put out my prayers for a loving, wholesome experience. I stay focused on my end results of having the best time, being open to giving and receiving love and joy in each moment and I stay present with the people I am with.

Be open to the best happening this Christmas. Be open to the possibility that anyone who gets 'under your skin' may just be hurting inside, struggling with their own internal landscape or may not have the resources you do to manage social situations. Avoid judging them, it simply doesn't help. Open your heart, let go of expectations (positive or negative) and be willing to be fully present with each person you are with this Christmas. It is an opportunity to deepen in compassion for others and yourself and to experience the true meaning of Christmas.