Let's be honest. Even though the holidays have the potential to be a joyful time filled with love and connection, it can also be really stressful. There is a lot of pressure to have a Hallmark card kind of holiday, but in my experience most people's family get togethers don't look like they do on the Pillsbury crescent commercials. In fact, a lot of people dread getting together with family for the holidays.
While we can love our families and want to celebrate together, the truth is that getting the family together tends to cause old patterns of behavior to emerge, stress levels to increase, and coping skills to be discarded when we are triggered. Not only does the potential of revisiting family drama during the holidays create stress, the constant activity of the season can feel overwhelming and lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
There are a few things you can do to make the holidays emotionally easier for everyone. This will require your intention and commitment. It's easy to get drawn into our old stuff, especially if we haven't healed fully yet, so it's important to set conscious intentions beforehand. Remember, we are only able to control our own behavior, but if you set your own intention to follow these 4 tips, the holidays will go more smoothly for you and everyone around you. When we heal ourselves, we heal our family system without even trying (in fact, in my experience, this is the case more so than if we explicitly try to heal another).
1. Remind yourself of what you are grateful for.
While it may sound cliche, an attitude of gratitude is going to bolster you during this holiday season. Although most people associate the holidays with the idea of gratitude, the act of being grateful sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. This time of year can often leave us feeling like we need more - more food, more presents, more events, more love, more alone time, etc. When we focus on what we think is lacking, it is inevitable that we will feel depleted, cheated, and/or defeated. Not only does this suck for ourselves, lacking awareness about this can lead to us taking our feelings out on family members, which just fuels the fire of unhappiness for everyone.
Instead, take some time every day to pause and make a mental or written list of 5 things you're grateful for that day. For example, rather than focusing on how stressful travel is, think about how amazing it is that we can get to the people we love so easily. Let go of that comment your relative makes about your current dating or employment status, and focus instead on the delicious food they took time to make for your enjoyment. Instead of focusing on how shitty it is to hear family members argue, connect to gratitude for the fact that these people are still alive and in contact with one another, which means the opportunity for healing and growth is still possible (even if it doesn't happen away).
Studies show that gratitude increases a person's level of happiness. Gratitude is actually a protective mechanism - when we train ourselves to align with positive, grateful feelings we are less affected by negative situations.
2. Be generous with your heart, rather than your wallet.
Hey, if you're a millionaire and can spend a lot of money on gifts for your loved ones - go for it! For most of us, though, the financial pressure of the holidays is real and stressful. When we overspend we feel guilty and resentful of the people we've spent money on. And the truth is, showing our love through unbridled consumerism is kind of hollow. Let go of the idea that how many presents you buy is a reflection of how much you love someone. Think back to your most favorite gifts you've received - I bet they were more sentimental than flashy.
Let yourself be generous in other, more fulfilling ways. Focus on offering your loved ones quality time, sincere compliments, help with something they need assistance accomplishing, and creative gifts from the heart, like an art project, a heartfelt letter, or a framed photo. Of course, money is a form of energy exchange, and we can indeed send positive energy to others with the help of money. But I encourage you to do this in a thoughtful way. Rather than buying a random sweater or tie, get your family member something they've needed to help them achieve their goals - maybe some creative supplies, a healing session, or a coaching package. Or buy them a ticket to an experience you know they will appreciate and remember forever.
In the end, people remember the gifts that are connected to real emotions. Plus, the act of really thinking about what would make another person happy makes us happy, too. So let your love for your family (as much as they drive you crazy!) direct your actions rather than the pressure to buy more.
3. Remember - we're all doing the best we can.
Yeah, your parents relationship may be a mess, your aunt may be an alcoholic, your brother might have anger issues, and you might still throw temper tantrums at age 30 - BUT - you are all doing the best you can. When we really understand this we are able to connect with a little more softness and compassion around family dynamics. With this awareness, we can learn to forgive ourselves and our family members for our mistakes and shortcomings.
Your parents were never given a manual for how to raise you. They could only teach you what they themselves were taught. Just like you, they weren't given a perfect road map for how to live life. They did the best they could with what they had, just like you are doing right now. Have compassion for the fact that they may not have been given the tools for how to have healthy relationships, how to communicate effectively, how to express emotions, or how to cope with life's stressors in a healthy way. Think about a person who, due to a genetic malfunction, is born with no legs. You don't get angry at that person for not having legs. It's not their fault, and getting angry about what they are lacking is a waste of energy and alienates you from love and connection. Remember this when you are faced with a family member who doesn't have the capacity for something you want from them.
We are all just doing the best we can, and all we can do is work on ourselves and offer love to others as they (hopefully) do the same. Even more important, we can offer love to them even if they aren't working on themselves - they may not yet have the capacity of awareness for their issues or they may not be ready for change. Everyone heals on their own schedule, and trying to fight that is a losing battle. Again, all we can do is focus on healing ourselves and that in itself will have effects on others without us even having to try.
4. Don't spend time with your crazy family - get a new family!
I'm only half kidding on this one.
In the busy holiday season where so much is asked of us, it is imperative that we carve out some alone time. It's easy to get swept up in the whirlwind of activity, but this can leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Self-care is essential for helping us to stay grounded and true to our authentic selves. You have probably already done a lot of work on yourself to heal childhood wounds, but being around family can trigger old patterns of behavior that overshadow your new coping skills. It's important to take some alone time to reconnect with your present day wise self that is separate from your past family dynamics.
Going back to tip #2, allow yourself to be generous from your heart towards yourself. Give yourself the gift of a massage, a therapy session, a solo trip to the movies, etc. When you are visiting family, be sure to take solo walks, go to a local yoga class, or just lock yourself in a room by yourself for an hour so you can meditate or do your spiritual ritual. Connecting to self-love through self-care activities will help you feel stronger around people who make you question your sanity.
It's also a great thing to remember that as adults we can choose whom we call family. While it's wonderful to connect with the family we grew up with, and that lifetime bond certainly deserves care and attention, it's also important to consider who else in your life you can count on in this deep way. Most of us have figured out that we can't rely on our family members to fulfill all of our needs (or any one person to fulfill every need, for that matter). So give yourself permission to create a larger concept of family - one that includes the family you grew up with but also incorporates best friends, soul siblings, and (healthy) romantic partners. Make an effort to spend time with these important people in your life so that you can feel love and connection in a broader sense.
The bottom line is that making time to ground yourself and connect to your heart will help you easily access these 4 tips so you can have a smooth holiday season.
If you are looking for more support in healing old family issues, check out my hypnotherapy and energy healing offerings which are extremely effective in working through old blocks that have kept you from feeling love and joy in the present. Prepare yourself for the holiday season by giving yourself the gift of healing, in whatever way that looks for you. Listen to your inner wisdom - you know what you need!
Just in case anyone was wondering - I love my family!
Hi guys! Love ya!
I am a student of the human experience, and in this role I have learned a lot about the behaviors and experiences of individuals, societies, and families. There is no perfect family. Every family has dynamics that cause joy and those that cause frustration and possibly pain. You can love your family in spite of, and even because of, any issues you've had.
It is the nature of family relationships to provide us with a container for growth, and this includes both great feeling and not-so-great feeling lessons. So don't feel bad about sometimes being annoyed with your family - it doesn't mean you love them any less, it just means you are accepting reality and becoming aware of opportunities for your own growth. I encourage you to take these opportunities so you can intentionally begin to create a life that fills you up with more love, joy & wellness of mind, body & spirit :)
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