Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO/Find your own personal respite

Marjorie Spitz RentoComment

Are you running around like crazy? Does time go by so fast you don't know what day it is? No matter how much you plan, do you find multiple items on your “to do” list left undone? Is your heart pounding and your breath getting shallow as you read this?

You are not alone.  Stop right now and do one thing for me (it’ll take less than a minute):

  • Close your eyes
  • Exhale through your mouth until you cannot exhale anymore (and then do so just for one more second)
  • Hold your breath for 3 seconds
  • Inhale fully through your nose
  • Breathe naturally
  • Notice what happened

I’m betting that simple little exercise slowed down your blood pressure, cleared your head and shifted your perspective.

I asked you to do that not only to make you feel physically better, but to prepare you emotionally for what may be an upcoming anxiety ridden time. 

Let’s face it; sitting across from family member (insert name here) whom you love dearly, but whose views significantly differ from yours is no picnic. Without respectful guidelines in place, rifts grow and hearts break. 

Many of my clients are searching for how to approach potentially tension-filled short and long-term holiday visits.

Psychologist and Emory University Professor Nadine Kaslow says, “Families are coping with post-election anxiety in a variety of ways, depending largely on how they’ve always dealt with stress: Some are talking more, listening and learning from each other. Others are setting ground rules in advance, promising to avoid talking about politics. Still others are staying away from each other entirely.” 

I certainly encourage employing empathy and engaging in respectful conversation, but that’s not always possible. One thing mental professionals all agree on is that “we can’t change others, we can (only) change how we respond.” 

I will repeat that: YOU cannot change others; YOU can only change how YOU respond.

Therein lies the power: within you. Small changes, right? 

I found inspiration from this article offering constructive mechanisms to support your efforts to stay positive and enjoy time with loved ones, even those whose views significantly differ from yours:

  • Focus what you have in common with the other person. “Don’t give up on your own views, but honor what’s good about the other person.”
  • Do some research so you have neutral topics at your finger tips – movies, sports, the weather, fashion, work – whatever your “safe zone” topics are, go to them.
  • Avoid feeling “zinged.” If you know you’re walking into the lion’s den, practice a script in advance to avoid any traps. I am a happily married woman, but when I was happily single, I dreaded the inevitable question thrown my way at social events. No matter how successful career or health wise, the first question asked was always: “Why don’t you have a boyfriend” (delivered with sad eyes)? It was awful, until I turned the conversation around with enthusiastic replies like: “When I like someone enough to share my fabulous life with, I’ll let you know.”  
  • Walk away. Literally, go for a walk, a workout or a trip to the store. Distance can be a great mediator and healer. 
  • Do something charitable together. Join Big Brothers/Big Sisters, prepare food for seniors, donate to a food bank, go to the market and pay someone’s bill or engage in other random acts of kindness. Focus on sharing a positive moment to build someone up, instead of take each other down.
  • If you do find yourself in a difficult conversation, be aware of who is listening. Some conversations are not for children, especially escalating ones.
  • If all else fails, gracefully cut the trip short. As I said in a previous blog, when it comes to the greater good of your health, I find nothing wrong with a strategically placed harmless lie. A sudden cold coming on, a call from the pet sitter that things have gone array, or an email from the boss about a project needing attention are feasible gateways to graciously leave, and perhaps save a relationship.

In addition, you can always go back to that simple breathing exercise we just did and give yourself a respite. It’s the holidays, you deserve it!

With a hug and some cheer, 

Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™