For many of us, spending the holidays with family brings us comfort and joy. For others, holiday family time is anything but but a fun time. From the stress of travel to the pressures of gift-giving, the holidays can trigger a flurry of bad habits and feelings that cause serious conflict. But family drama doesn’t have to ruin your season of joy.
Don’t wait until the family gathering to set your personal limits. Determine for yourself what feels good and what doesn’t. Make a game plan for how you’ll establish and set your boundaries in real time during your trip, then communicate them to those involved. You can always clarify or adjust boundaries as you go, but it helps to establish them ahead of time.
Get a clear sense of what you hope to get from your family visit and holiday travel. Be clear of the reasons why you’re spending time with family during the holidays. If you feel like you’re going home solely to meet someone else’s needs rather than your own, it might be time to adjust your plans or your expectations.
Be open to having a dialogue with your family members about their needs. Once they communicate their needs, let them know that you acknowledge them and share how you’re willing to be flexible. Depending on how aligned their needs are to yours, you might need to adjust your plans to accommodate theirs, if you’re willing.
Watch the Intake
The holidays are an indulgent time of year. But don’t let sugar, carbs, and alcohol impose on your family dynamic. In large amounts, these substances can impair your mood and judgement, so it’s important to be mindful of your intake and not go overboard.
Breaks can be a great way to reset and let off some steam. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. If you start to feel yourself getting stressed, it’s okay to hit pause and reboot with some self-care and relaxation. Just be sure to let others know that you’re coming back so they don’t misinterpret your absence or worry you left and aren’t coming back!
Sadness and grief sometimes show up during the holidays. Family gatherings can remind us of those who are no longer there. If you recently lost a loved one, talk to your family about ways you can remember them. Anticipate that the holidays may be a time of grieving and longing, but that reminiscing with others can help heal your grief.
Families often know just what buttons to push. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by emotions, try stress-relieving techniques like silently counting backwards from 100, humming a song in your head, or doing multiplication tables in your head. You could also try deep, slow breaths from your belly to shift your body out of reactive mode.
Take time to refuel and re-establish your routine after the holidays. If you spent a ton of time with family, reconnect with friends when you’re back in town. If you have children and spent the holidays visiting extended family, carve out quality time with your family to regroup before you plunge back into normal life.
Whatever you do to celebrate your holiday season, do it with gladness and joy!