Happy holidays! Are you groaning? If you are feeling anxious about reconnecting with the fam this week- hang tight. I’m going to share some simple and effective ways of not just "getting through," but actually enjoying time spent with the special people in your life.
As you probably already know, holidays can be intense. Going home is basically asking the universe to give you “stimulating” material to work with.
If you walk through your parent’s front door tentatively, hoping and praying that this year everyone finally gets along, you might be setting yourself up for disaster. Or at least some frustration and disappointment.
What’s tricky about family time is that two parallel realities are happening: your adult brain thinks things are cool because you *know* (cognitively) that you are an adult who has choices. However, the younger, wounded part of you; the part of you that is still yearning for something she never got or is sitting with unprocessed trauma or resentment, is vulnerable to being activated....which means all kinds of sticky feelings can get drudged up, usually without much awareness.
This year, infuse some space and consciousness into time spent with your family. We want to work the psychic muscle that holds your needs in consideration while moving through the activities, demands and interactions of the week.
A little preparation can go a long way. Here are 5 tips to minimize toxicity and give you the best shot at having meaningful, contactful time with your loved ones.
1. Take your pulse. Keep a gentle, mindful eye on what is happening for you internally. Notice how you feel before a conversation starts. Then check back in 5 minutes later. Are you breathing? Are you anxious? Are you angry? Did you just eat 5 cookies? Keeping a finger on the pulse of your experience will give you the greatest leverage for taking care of yourself in the moment.
2. Make Boundaries. A healthy boundary means being willing to adjust to take care of your needs-- not your brother’s or mom’s-- first. It means leaving 2 days earlier than planned if the environment becomes toxic. Instead of letting your mom get away with making remarks about your appearance that drive you nuts, say “Mom, I know you care about me AND I really don’t like it when you comment on how I look. It makes me uncomfortable. Would you mind keeping those thoughts to yourself?” Say it with love and compassion. Say it with an authentic smile, because you love this woman. She makes you crazy, but you can help her make you less crazy.
3. Visualize. If you know you will be seeing a ‘certain someone’ that pushes all of your buttons, anticipate a challenging moment that might occur and visualize yourself handling it in a way where you remain in integrity while being kind and loving with the other person. This will calm your central nervous system and help you move more gracefully into said person’s vicinity.
4. Remember that you are an adult. You are a bona-fide adult! How quickly we can forget when around family. You are not small, victimized and left with no choices or power. You are 100% in control, which means you can engage in or stop any conversation you choose. You decide how people speak to you. Steer your interactions from this seat of adult consciousness.
5. Take care of your child. Your inner-child that is. Your hurt inner child has the potential to become triggered. Before you start your travels, think about her and see how old she looks. Tell her that you will be taking care of her throughout the week and that she is safe with you. Keep her in your consciousness. If you find yourself being triggered, you can go to a private room and connect with and soothe her. For example, you can hold a pillow and rock it as though it was the smaller part of you that is hurt. If you feel too activated/upset, find a private space to be held and nurtured: wrap yourself in a warm blanket and imagine being cradled. Take a warm bath. Enlist support. Ask your partner for a hug. Call a friend.
Anticipation and mindfulness are the name of the game. These tips are subtle yet quite effective at shaking you out of the habitual role you play in your family. Keep in mind that your loved ones may become annoyed, upset, angry. This is alright. One of my favorite mantras right now is "I'm ok, even if you're not ok." Put that one in your pocket. This is not easy work but it's how we wrestle ourselves free from childhood and really, fully, step into our adult lives.
I think it's important to note that you are not doing this inner work to become the Family Douchebag. A lot of what is suggested here may mistakenly come across as selfish, but when you move from your heart, you are working on behalf of yourself and your family. Two days of authentic contact spent with your family is better for everyone than 5 days where you are crawling out of your skin.
Honor your family.
Move from your heart.
Wishing you courage, joy & fierceness this holiday season!
I would love to hear from you! What helps you tolerate or enjoy the holidays? Is there anything you did to rock the boat that ended up bringing your family closer together?
Thanks for reading and sharing.
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