My girlfriend and I were chatting about our plans for the holidays and when I told her I wasn’t going to go to a big family holiday event she said:
Um, say what?
My jaw almost hit the floor.
After I collected myself, I told her that I actually quite disagreed!
So let’s chat for a moment about the stress that seems to come out of nowhere around the get-togethers, celebrations, and other family obligations that permeate this time of year and more importantly, ways in which you can feel better about those events.
Historically holidays were meant to be a time of great celebration. I don’t know about you, but my idea of celebration is not hanging out with people who annoy me and wondering how long I have to stay there because that’s what I should do in order to “officially” call it Christmas (or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate).
Instead of talking about should, let’s talk about want.
Because when you build a life based around shoulds, you build walls of resentment and anger that can take awhile to come back down. When you build a life of shoulds it’s like telling the world that you don’t believe your desires are good enough so you’re just going to do what someone else thinks or wants you to do.
Now I’m not saying that a life filled with nothing but eating lollipops and frolicking in the daisy fields is what you want to shoot for because sometimes, in fact most times, you have to do things you don’t necessarily want to do in order to get to the end goal. But there’s a difference between recognizing that you’re doing A to get to B, versus blindly doing A even though you’re not really sure if you want B in the first place.
So now that we’re clear that operating from a place of want (and not should) is a great place to start, let’s talk about making your way through the holiday season in a way that feels really good for you.
6 Steps to Survive the Holidays with Your Family and Loved Ones:
Define what you want
Have a game plan
Have an escape route
Reflect and release
Let’s dive a little further into each one:
1. DEFINE WHAT YOU WANT: Grab your journal, get comfortable, and set a timer for 5 minutes. Sit back, close your eyes and imagine it is January 3rd and you’re reflecting on the holidays. What feelings do you want to come up for you? What sensations do you want to recognize in your body? Once you have a really good idea of how you want to feel after the holiday season is officially over, journal on these questions below:
- What feelings do I desire to feel this holiday season? (write these down)
- Can I identify four (or more) triggers that make me feel sad, judged, depressed, anxious, etc?
- In what ways can I take ownership over negative feelings?
2. GET CLEAR: With your new vision of your ideal post-holiday feel (we’ll call this our PHF going forward) clear in your mind, gather all your invitations for holiday get togethers and lay out your schedule as much as you can. Look ahead at your calendar and ask family and loved ones when events and celebrations will be. Lay them out on your calendar and take a peek at everything you’ve got going on or have committed to. Notice how thinking about each event makes you feel. Go through each one and ask if after attending it you think you’ll have achieved your ideal PHF? Remove or add as many events as feels good for you. Once you’ve gotten through that layer, go back again and set time limits for any of the events that are left. In an effort to reduce the overwhelm, plan to stay for a set amount of time (30 minutes to whatever feels good for you) and know that you are allowing yourself to leave after said time. Just because you agree to go to something does not mean you have to stay for the whole entire thing. Repeat this process as many times as you need to until you feel really good about each event you have scheduled.
3. GET CENTERED: Now that you’ve gotten really clear with your intentions and laid out a game plan for how you’re going to tackle the remainder of the season, it’s time to sync it all together. Some of the stress around the holidays comes from feeling like you’re being pulled in multiple directions at all times. Learning how to increase your own vibration or the feeling that you’re emitting with each interaction (instead of just receiving everyone else’s energy) can be a powerful tool in making sure the events you do choose to attend are a positive interaction and leave you glowing with your PHF. Try one (or all) of these to find out which one works best for you:
- Seated meditation
- Standing outside without shoes (sounds weird but just try it!)
- Moving meditation (such as deliberate walking)
4. PRACTICE YOUR GAME PLAN: Just as a professional sports team practices multiple times before a huge event, it can be helpful to play things out before you attend events that perhaps you aren’t super excited to go to (or even ones that you are!). **Just a note - it can be helpful to practice but please keep in mind that it’s not necessary to run through every single detail. There’s no way to predict every interaction and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to play everrrything out!** With that being said, it’s totally fine and can be helpful to not only know how you want things to go, but to know what to do if they don’t. Grab your notebook and journal on these quick questions:
- What can I do when I feel the triggers from #1 being pushed?
- How can I take responsibility for my emotions?
5. HAVE AN ESCAPE ROUTE: OK so let’s say everything is going great and you do all of the above pre-work and then you get to said event and nothing goes as planned. It’s ok and actually totally fine to just leave. If whatever is happening at the event is no longer serving you or even worse, making you feel worse than when you walked in, it is totally fine, in fact, recommend that you leave. Doing so will not take away from the work you put in before and it will not make you less of a person. It will however take you out of whatever situation you’re in, it will empower you to continue to take care of yourself, and it will prevent the situation from escalating. You can still be polite, say goodbye, stay in touch, hang out again and at the same time, leave earlier than expected to stay.
6. REFLECT & RELEASE: Maybe you do this on January 1, maybe earlier but it’s important to look back on the holiday season with non-judgemental eyes. If we never understand or even know our issues or triggers, it’s impossible to correct or move on from them. If we never look back to figure out where we can go from, it’s almost impossible to not go down the exact same pathways again. Answer these four questions in your journal:
- How do I feel? What does it feel like in my body? In my mind?
- What went really well this year?
- What didn’t go as I would have liked?
- Where can I take responsibility and acknowledge my actions/behaviors/responses so I don’t feel like things happened to me, but instead that I was an active participant in creating my experience?
Gah, you made it. Hopefully, you learned something new and discovered something about yourself you didn’t know before or found compassion for someone (this could include YOU as well!) you weren’t able to find for them before.
And what’s cool about this handly little guide is that it can be used for any number of other life events as well. The holidays are obviously a bigger and more concentrated time of being around family and perhaps personalities that you don’t normally have to come into contact with, but the truth is you should never have to do something you don’t want to do. Follow the steps above to gain control and go from a place of “things happen to me that I have no control of” to a place of “I got this, I can handle anything”.
Let me know in the comments below if you put any of the techniques above into place and how it went?!