Many find strong emotions surfacing during the holidays, and this is only amplified when in the middle of litigation.  There can be quite a difference between our ideal of experiencing joy and peace during the holidays when stress gets too intense.

Here are some practical tips for coping with the variety of strong emotions being in the middle of litigation during the holiday season:

1. Keep it Simple- Rather than feeling pressured to say “Yes” or “No” when invited to an event train yourself to say, “Let us check our schedule and get back to you soon.”  Set a goal for the percentage of your free time that will be devoted to relaxing or enjoyable holiday activities instead of just pressure to spend more, and be doing too much at once.

2. Seek Balance- Is there anything you would be best off just letting go from your calendar, your budget or on an emotional level?  Even if a person has not asked for our forgiveness for a wrong we may decide to release our bitterness or anger over the situation.  Sometimes we may need to set clearer boundaries, for example if visits are expected to be stressful perhaps we’d like to set a time limit or tell host ahead something like, “Sorry we’ve been invited to two events in one day.  We’ll be joining you for X portion of the event.”

3. Have Courage to Seek Change- Many of us are creatures of habit, but if we dread certain holiday traditions, if may be time to try something new.  Could we afford to take the vacation we usually take in Spring or Summer during the winter break to have a chance to refresh ourselves instead of being in town to face a variety of confusing, draining experiences?

4. It’s a process- If we have lost a key family or friend we celebrated our winter holiday with give yourself time to feel all the stages of grief. If a key person is estranged we may choose to journal, writing a letter that may or may not actually be mailed to work out what is unhealed in that relationship.  Working with a therapist can be useful in this process. Some of stages of grief and coping may repeat, but one model to seek healing through is the Kubler-Ross “DABDA” model:

A. Denial- Try to use active rather than passive defenses if you believe this stage has lingered B. Anger- Find a productive way to express frustration.  If we suppress anger we may act out or feel more anxious or depressed. Have others told us we are acting passive-aggressive? If so, how can we shift to more active coping skills? C. Bargaining- Since the legal system is based on negotiation, when in this stage of coping with grief and change it can help to journal before speaking with our attorney next.  It’s good to explore options in your legal strategy, if your counsel is open to involving you in this.  Or perhaps you need to ask friends or family for a bargain, “I know we usually do X,Y,Z during the holidays but our budget allows for a range of A to B instead.  What do you think of those options? D-Depression- Some of us literally need more enlightenment during the holidays as it can be a “Dark Night of the Soul.” For those with Seasonal Depression taking 1000IU of Vitamin D during the winter months and having your primary care test this an annual physical is recommended. Some therapy offices even have a therapeutic light available that simulates sunlight to use for 20 to 40 minutes a day to reduce winter depression or regulate sleep cycle. A-Acceptance- It is said, in acceptance there is peace.

Often being in the middle of litigation gets clients caught up in the tension of our adversarial legal system. Instead of trying to defend the “rightness” of your position over and over in your mind, remind yourself that your attorney is an ally and this is a process. Educate yourself on steps you have power to influence and topics your counsel wants you to mentally review before a trial or deposition (if settlement is not possible).  No one wishes to have the added stress of litigation during the holidays, but in acceptance there can be more peace in the midst of difficult times.  Hiring a compassionate, competent personal injury lawyer can lower your stress.