The holidays are upon us and to be completely honest with you I, like many others, find this time of the year very overwhelming. My parents have been divorce since I was 12 years old, so the holidays for me have consisted of a lot of balancing between the two households. The family dynamic that I have grown accustom to can feel heavy, daunting, and simply too much during this time of the year. Don’t get my wrong, I have a wonderful, loving, and supportive family, but it’s not a typical family you would see on Happy Days, but more of one you might see on Malcolm In the Middle.
I know, from my own experiences, that this time of the year can be just as warm and magical as it can be challenging. Therefore, I offer you five ways to prepare yourself for a holiday season that feels good, nurturing, and positive.
First, before you make your way home, take time to write down all of what you love about your life today. For example, note how your home feels. Think about the positive relationships you have in your life. Write down your accomplishments, as well as your top three values. Basically, create a solid understanding of who you are as an adult who values them self. Fostering this awareness can help prevent self-doubt, insecurities, and frustrations from presenting once you’re back in your family home.
The next tip is one I struggle with a lot when I go back home to my family. That is don’t try to solve other people’s problems. I’m not the only one in my family like this. My mother is the same way. Many times we get caught up in what I considered helping without truly listening. We tell each other our problems, but while each of us is sharing, the other is only thinking about how to solve the other person’s struggle without fully listening to what the problem is. Some families may engage in this behavior, or they may deal with what is called triangulating, which is when two people are communicating and trying to solve their problems through a third person, which could possibly be you. Instead of getting caught in the triangle, encourage them to either bring up the issue directly with the other person, or just to let it go. It’s ok to offer some advice for how they might start the conversation, but be clear that you don’t want to get involved either verbally or emotionally.
Of course I cannot have a post without mentioning some kind of mindfulness. This next tip is about getting in tuned with your body. When we are around our families we take in a lot, such as food, alcohol, family chatter, and those prying questions about our lives and future plans, so it’s important to take a break and listen to what our bodies are telling us. When you start to feel anxious about your abrupt grandmother prying into your personal life, take a deep breath and find your inner calm. When you may feel the pressure to eat until your stuffed, because that’s what you’ve always done with your family, listen to your hunger and satisfaction cues. Differentiate between physical stomach hunger, and emotional mind hunger. Getting your body moving is another positive way to deal with the pressure of the holidays. Moving your body implies that you are taking the time to feel yourself, and that’s the key to returning to your reality and the life you created.
Another tip is to allow others their autonomy and their opinions. Growing up I would get very frustrated with my father, because we had different opinions about the world and how to handle social issues. It took me until I graduated college to understand that it is not my job to change someone else, even if it is my father. So when he would bring something up which I may have found offensive, instead of letting it set me off I would breathe deep into my gut and move on. I realized that he grew up differently than I did, and his opinions have been his opinions for his whole life. No matter what I say it is unfair of me to expect change overnight. He allowed me to develop into the individual I am, and have the views and opinions that I do even if he didn’t agree, so why shouldn’t I do the same for him. The best I can do is plant a seed for change and see if it grows. As the years have gone on, I have noticed a change it my father, and as I have given him room to be himself, he has done the same for me. So, just as you want to live in your reality, your family has the right to live in theirs too.
Finally, my advice to you is to set boundaries. At times I have noticed that I get very anxious, and I had to learn that I needed to set boundaries that made me feel good. Through my experiences, I have learned that it’s ok to say that I needed some time to myself, or that doing a certain activity made me feel uncomfortable. Before, I would be so worried about offending my, or my fiancée’s family, or to put someone out. By doing that I was telling myself that my needs were not important and that I didn’t matter. I had a right to have my needs heard. It was an important step I had to take for my own well-being and independence. So remember that just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean that I you need to stop taking care of yourself, and having your needs heard.
So as you move through your holiday season, remember these five tips to help you prepare a nurturing and positive environment, for those heavy and possibly daunting family experiences. Remember they are your family, no matter how peculiar or frustrating they may be, they mean well and they do love you.
I wish you a wonderful and happy holiday season.
If you would like to learn more about how to prepare yourself for the holiday season, contact the Inner Door Center at 248-336-2868 for more information on our treatment programs or visit www.innerdoorcenter.com