If you need just ONE STRESS REDUCTION TECHNIQUE before heading to a holiday dinner, social event, or office party, and my latest blog on “what to do” to avoid unnecessary conflict sounds like hard work, here’s ONE BASIC THING to try.

    It does come with a “user alert” — it’s easy because you only need a pad of paper and a pen…BUT CHALLENGING because it is sometimes emotionally hard to do.

    The technique:  Write a letter to the person you imagine you might find hard to deal with. This can be a relative, a friend, a colleague or co-worker you know you will encounter over the holidays, and can fairly realistically predict that conversations might get heated — or maybe just painful.

    The letter simply begins:  Dear __________ From there you allow yourself a free flowing purging of the things you would like to say to this individual — about your relationship or friendship – about the things you never say but need to – about your anger or frustration with the individual — your disappointment, even hurt, painful feelings.

    The main thing is to just write without too much contemplation — about thoughts, feelings, ideas disagreements that are both negative and positive. Just let it flow with no attention to structure or spelling, or complete sentences. It can be as long as you want it to be…until you run out of anything to say. The goal: see if you can come to resolution on paper!

    You breathe while writing because it can be emotional and upsetting. And if it starts to dredge up too many disturbing feelings that you truly are not ready to deal with, just put it aside. This is for preparing you for one challenging holiday conversation — not for solving all the problems you may have had – historically – with this person — but it might help you get a handle on that history as well as what you want to manage in this one time encounter.

    When finished writing, read it out loud to yourself. See how many things are just necessary venting AND how many things you might thoughtfully consider saying to the person in question. And mainly, see what gets CLARIFIED for you. Can you perhaps truly just let go of the anticipated difficulty? Can you see that stored up feelings have made you feel more stressed than necessary? Do you feel a bit of pressure  has been removed and you might be more relaxed when you see this individual?

    If you discover that this exercise uncovers more stress than you realized you were feeling, take good care of yourself by thinking through what you keep OUT OF THE UPCOMING CONVERSATION to avoid unnecessary conflict. Being able to just take a breath and walk away when potential conflict flares can be the most healthy and powerful thing you can do.

    And if you uncover thoughts and feelings that are challenging, be sure to talk to someone. Ask for help ANY time you need to — reach out to friends, family, professionals who will be open and willing to talk. And you can always ask me questions. All of us deserve to feel good and healthy around the holidays, so doing what you can to remove pressure just makes sense. Trust yourself and take good care of YOU.