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Holiday Family Gatherings: How to Stay Sane During the Holidays

We all want our holiday family gatherings to be times of positive, loving  interactions and of basking in the warm feeling that comes from being with people we love.

However, this is often not the case for many people. For these folks, and maybe you are one of them, these holiday family gatherings can be a source of great stress because of the expectation of conflict and dysfunction. These type of holiday family gatherings have the potential to steal your holiday cheer and leave you in a bad place for weeks.

The truth is that sometimes the people we love can get under our skin.They can say and do things that trigger negative reactions in us such as anger, irritation and sadness, causing us to strike back, making the situation worse.

Politics,religion, and people interfering in your personal life or business are just a few of the triggers that can be the cause of arguments, conflict and tension at holiday family gatherings.

Throw alcohol into the mix and these holiday family gatherings can become volatile to the point that after the party is over, family members are not even speaking to each other.  How to deal with these potentially stressful situations?

The key is to be prepared.  You could simply decide not to go or attempt to fake your own death to get out of it. However, if you do decide to attend your holiday family gatherings, here are some suggestions on how to stay calm and in control.

How to prepare and deal with holiday family gatherings.

1. Have an intention and decide your outcome ahead of time. Be clear about how you want to be at the holiday family gatherings. Have a goal for how you want to feel and respond. Create the outcome that you will leave feeling good about your visit.

For instance, suppose that every time you get together with your mother, you get impatient and frustrated, leaving you to you feel terrible afterwards. Before you see her again, make it your goal to be calm, loving, patient and kind. You might even write it down: “My intention is to be calm loving, patient and kind when I see my mother on Christmas day.”

Of course, you can also have the intention that you’re going to verbally destroy  anyone that attempts to mess with you at the holiday family gatherings, but this is not a good way to stay sane during the holidays.

2. Identify the triggers. Think back to previous family gatherings about what happened that triggered negative emotions or reactions from you. Is it what someone says or does? Is it a particular topic of conversation? If you are aware of the potential negative triggers, and can keep your  positive outcome in mind, you are more likely to stay in control.

3. Have a response ready when these triggers occur. If your outcome is to be calm, centered and balanced during holiday family gatherings, then decide what you will you do when the triggers appear. For instance, when someone brings up that topic of discussion that you know is going to cause trouble, you might:

  • Smile and say, “I really don’t want to talk about that right now.”
  • Excuse yourself and go to the restroom or go outside and take some deep breaths.
  • Make a joke out of it and change the subject.
  • Use the STOP method: Stop, Take a breath, Observe your body, emotions and thoughts, and proceed in a way that honors you, the other and your relationship.

Of course, as a last resort, you can always be prepared to leave if things get too out of hand. It’s a tough choice but sometimes it’s the right one.

4. Create your own positive trigger. This is a technique where you have a “power word”, phrase or a physical action that triggers a positive response. Put yourself into a relaxed state before you go to the holiday family function. You can imagine yourself in a relaxing place, or just breathe and release stress and tension. On each exhalation, say your word or phrase, such as “Calm” or “I can deal with this” or “In control”. Do something physical such as rub your fingers together while you are doing this. The idea is that you form an association between rubbing your fingers/saying your power word with a relaxed state so that when you feel those negative triggers threatening to derail you, you can use your positive trigger to get back to being calm, centered and balanced.

You may not be able to change your family dynamic, but you can always have control over how you respond. This holiday season, see if you can let go of the past, stay in present, and expect only the best from the future.

Need help? Someone to talk to? Contact me by clicking here.

Ted

p.s. If you thought this post was helpful, please leave a comment or share with your social networks.

Self Care During the Holidays: 10 Tips

Self care during the holidays is essential if you want to stay sane. Getting seriously stressed out, experiencing emotional breakdowns, having conflicts with family members and getting sick may not be the technical definition of insanity, but if these things happen due to lack of self care during the holidays, then you might FEEL as if you were going insane.

10 Tips for Self Care During the Holidays

 

1. Get enough sleep.  When you’re sleep deprived you’re irritable and prone to overwhelm, so negative emotions are much more easily triggered. You’re low on energy and not able to deal effectively with life’s normal challenges.Your immune system becomes challenged leaving you open to getting sick. Fatigue will cause you to reach for high sugar, high carb foods, making you feel even worse.

2. Avoid overdosing on sugar. Although sugar may give you a short term boost, the following drop in blood sugar can result in depression, anxiety , fatigue, irritability and mood swings. Other possible side effects from sugar overload: yeast infections, backaches, indigestion, bloating, eczema and frequent colds. Click here to read more.

3. Be mindful when you drink alcohol. Self care during the holidays does not include getting a DUI, throwing up in your boss’s bathroom, getting into a verbal or physical conflict, saying things you later regret, or waking up with a pounding hangover.  The amount of alcohol that causes intoxication is enough to suppress your immune system, leaving you open to colds, viruses or worse.

4. Drink lots of water. All the benefits of drinking water are too plentiful to list here. Remember that if you don’t drink water you will die. Seriously. Drink enough water and you’ll have less headaches, joint pain, constipation, crankiness and weight gain.

5. Wash your hands. It’s cold outside. Everyone is in the house. Some folks are carrying around flu and cold viruses but aren’t sick yet. Think about all the handshaking,  fingers in mouths, sneezing and coughing that goes on at a typical holiday party. Before you eat, always wash your hands.

5. Eat whole foods. Whole foods are foods that resemble how they grow in nature, which means unprocessed or minimally processed. These types of foods are nutrient rich and contribute to a healthy body. They keep your immune system strong and help keep you disease free.

6. Move your body. The benefits of consistent movement of your body are long and lasting. Improved mood, increased energy, better sleep, more fun, better sex, calmer mind, less stress, the list goes on and on. It could be walking a few minutes a day or going to the gym. Just do something.

7. Take breaks and days off.  Taking some days off to shop, wrap, renew or rest is essential to self care during the holidays. One way to deal with stress is to have regular periods of down time. Regular breaks during working hours can give you better memory, improved concentration, and increased creativity.

8. Nurture yourself. What fills you up? What makes you feel like life is worth living? What activities  can you do that could give you peak experiences? Self care during the holidays means giving to yourself all the good, juicy, healthy, happy stuff that you can.

9. Lower your expectations. A lot of unhappiness and frustration comes from having expectations about the holidays and not having them met to your satisfaction. Understand that people and circumstance change and that self care during the holidays might mean having to accept what shows up. The quickest way to insanity is to invest a lot of emotion into wanting what is, to be what it is not.

10. Find your own meaning. Ultimately, you are responsible for your holiday experience.You can be swept along by things and situations that hold no meaning for you, or you can you find something significant about this time of year that resonates with your deepest feelings and values. Remember that nothing has any meaning other than what you give it.

If you need help with your self care during the holiday season, you can contact me by clicking here. 

You are worth  self care during the holidays, aren’t you?

Ted

p.s. Did I leave anything out about self care during the holidays? If you think I did, please let me know in the comment section.