Nervous about the holidays? Here’s some tips to help you survive Christmas from Cynthia J. Morton, emotional drama/trauma and self sabotage specialist.

How to get on with difficult relatives.

Learning how to survive Christmas can be a predictably or unexpectedly emotionally challenging time for many of us. So here are a few suggestions to help build your emotional fitness for the coming celebrations. How to get on with difficult relatives Some people are simply emotionally unpalatable to us. We all have differing tastes, emotional preferences and priorities. We can’t change others, only ourselves, that’s the first reality we all need to truly accept. If we refuse, we’ll just upset ourselves and them trying. Shifting our focus back to ourselves is the most productive place to start.

How to cope with Uncle John who gets drunk.

There is no excusing poor drunken behaviour.However, you or your nearest and dearest may be the unacceptable “Uncle John” amongst family, friends or colleagues. So I’d like to explain why hitting the drink hard is so prevalent at Christmas.When people get drunk it often flags that they’re emotionally wounded and in distress. They require “dutch courage” or an emotional anaesthetic to help them endure the “happy family” festivities. It won’t help anyone shaming nor enabling them. If you are a guest, a pre-planned early exit strategy can minimise drama. If you are a host, try to offer gentler awareness but set clearer personal boundaries (or hide all your grog).

Dealing with adult siblings who fight.

Supporting all sibling differences and opinions as being valid will diminish rivalry. Siblings who still fight as adults haven’t yet mastered the art of compromise. Instead they still battle with unhealthy childhood competition. If you or a loved one is one of the unsettled siblings still fighting for external approval or attention, moving the focus back to self acceptance with the respect and grace of an adult, not the grief of an upset child will reap rewards (or you could resort to water pistols at ten paces).

What about prickly Aunt Ethel who consistently criticises?

One of the most damaging forms of heart trauma is verbal abuse. The accumulation of fine almost invisible cactus like splinters needled into the heart, year in, year out create emotional wounding. It only takes one word from prickly Aunt Ethel and the wounded heart’s splinters get knocked causing tremendous private pain. It makes Aunty Ethel’s target feel and seem hyper sensitive, because to others it’s often seen as just one word. However, it’s oh so painful for the heart already nursing multiple wounds. Aunt Ethel is not likely to change but you can. Keep out of her verbal range as much as possible and remember that you are an adult now, not a child. Failing that, crank up the Christmas carols to completely drown out Aunt Ethel’s voice.

How to mend bridges.

Christmas time is not the ideal time to mend bridges. If there is a “pink elephant in the room” it is best addressed when all parties have the time and emotional energy to shift it. If apologies need to be made and confusion clarified, why not make an alternate date to privately address the issue? Or opt to wear a  pink elephant outfit on Christmas Day and live dangerously!

If you’re alone, estranged or going through a bereavement.

Grief needs privacy or company. Allow yourself or others the freedom to choose if in the midst of processing loss this Christmas. If time out from the world is preferable, a private date with ourselves may be the healthiest option. A day at the beach or a day in bed alone with our favourite food, books, pets and movies can be just what our heart needs to gently progress and heal. Ice cream and chocolate absolutely qualify as grief therapy essentials.

How not to look back but to actually enjoy this Christmas

If we find ourselves or others feeling angry or depressed it’s a signal that our focus is on our past. If we find ourselves or others feeling anxious or overwhelmed it’s a signal that our focus is on the future.The most productive formula for building our emotional fitness is remembering to unwrap and enjoy life’s greatest gift of all – the present moment. So let’s do our best to love and accept ourselves and others as they are this Christmas.Remembering these simple suggestions can help us say farewell to the unwelcome ghosts of Christmas past.