Holiday Survival Tips

Are you feeling the holidays blues, anxiety or clenched jaw awaiting the usual family drama to play out over the holidays?

Perhaps this December is the one where you flip the script for a drama-free season?

Usually the holiday season can bring up some mixed emotions for many of us. For some, its their favourite time of the year, for others, it brings up feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, sadness or loss. Seeing old friends and family may be exciting or bring up unresolved emotions for us. 

Have you ever noticed suddenly becoming a 12 year old again at family gatherings, having a sibling dispute, challenging authority or perhaps surprising thoughts emerge “I always knew he/she was Mom/Dad’s favourite”. We may be triggered back into childhood patterning, or a family member has held onto an image of you at a certain age in childhood, feeling frozen in time, you react accordingly. 

Whether you have a healthy relationship with friends and family, or not, the holiday season will inevitably present you with a bit (or a LOT) of drama. The drama can be triggered by a snide remark, a barrage of nosy questions, unsolicited advice, or an off-putting comment. A small upset can easily spiral into an epic drama, especially if some holiday ‘spirit’ is flowing.

In the midst of holiday excitement, it is not uncommon to feel anxious, depressed or lonely. The season silliness with dinners, parties and family or friend gatherings can cause a tremendous amount of stress. These feelings may be amplified if you are going through or are separated, divorced, you’ve lost a loved one, or you are living far from family and friends.

So, I want you to know, that if you may be feeling this, you are not alone. And its okay, not to be okay. What also want you to take to heart, is that you can move through this experience with lifted spirits. And I don’t mean the kind of spirit that comes in a bottle, but the kind that comes from a Light heart. 

The business of busyness during the season can make self-care a low priority, or even seem as if you need to sacrifice your needs for others. The space between family obligations and attending social events may seem impossible to set boundaries in. Dividing your time between all festivities when you would rather stay at home or attend events of your choosing rather than obligation just adds stress to experience, and steals the Joy. 

Holidays are a time to connect, make memories, recharge for a new year but when you don’t honour your own boundaries, they feel like just another exhausting to-do-list. You may be ‘keeping the peace’ by going along with what happens every year but on the inside the magic of the season has lost the sparkle it had as a child. Reclaiming that magic means choosing to do what YOU Love! 

Please don’t assume that you have to give up what you want. Healthy Boundaries – even during the holiday season- can be done in baby steps. 

At the end of a long year, we are all a little bit tired, we are evaluating what we’ve accomplished this year , and reviewing the Champagne inspired ‘new years resolutions’ we boldly shared with everyone at that party. Now, looking back, you can hardly remember the exact focus of those resolutions, but you know you feel disappointed with yourself for not achieving them. This self-performance review, year-end exhaustion, coupled with holiday anxiety or blues can be all the ingredients for a perfect storm. 

We’ve all been conditioned with the picture perfect family holiday meme. You know the expectation of families getting along, sharing deep connection, listening attentively to one another, harmony and love abounds. If we are attached to this picture on some level, then we will feel disappointed when the family holiday event does not unfold with singing kumbaya together around a fire. 

The truth is that all families have challenges, have their ancestral wounds, have conflict, and experience disappointment in unmet needs.

So, how do you deal with all the family gatherings, events, office party dynamics or seasonal socialising in a healthy, authentic, heart-centred way?

Here are a few suggestions you can use to change your holiday experience:

1.) Define what the holidays truly means to you.

You may have grown up observing religious traditions over the holiday season, but no longer practice these beliefs? Perhaps all thats left is the stocking without the meaning? 

Take the time this year to dive deeper into what this period really means to you. At the end of a chapter, it’s a powerful practice to take stock of the year. What did you learn? How have you grown? What do you want to expand on, experience, create in 2020 ?

In this way you clarify for yourself what meaning you will bring into your experience during this season. If you have a meaningful experience, you are filling up your cup of grace, restoring and recharging for the new year ahead. 

  • Is the season about peace to you? Then choose to practice and participant in peaceful acts and gatherings or create your own. 
  • Is the season about gratitude? Create a gathering in which you invite your friends and family to share gratitude. 
  • Is it about love and forgiveness? How can you consciously work with forgiveness? How can expand love during the festive season? 
  • Is it about charity and giving back? Volunteer at a charity or outreach program or sign up to help at a soup kitchen in your area.

2.) Honour your feelings.

It’s important to stay present with what is coming up for you. Our emotions can inform us of what needs to be healed, addressed, resolved or received in order to create a sense of peace, and rejuvenation during this time. 

If you have an anniversary coming up, allow yourself to feel the grief and don’t spend time at gatherings where you have to put on a fake smile, whilst you are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Faking the smile, will set you up with internal conflict, leaving you feeling even more lonely at the party and you may numb the unpleasant feelings with alcohol, or sugar or spending. It may lift your spirits momentarily, but you will return full circle to the grief.

Know this too shall pass and what’s most import for your well-being is to acknowledge what you are feeling and giving yourself the space to honour your process.

If you are feeling anxious about attending the annual family gathering, office party or friends party, stay present with which emotions this is bringing up for you.

  • Do you really want to be there?
  • Is it emotionally safe for you to attend?
  • Is there an old wound which actually needs resolution before you attend the event?
  • Have you outgrown your friends?
  • Do you really want to get drunk with office colleagues?

When we are connected to our emotions, we can manage the unexpected, and the uncertainties. In this way, we have the ability to master life, and not get pulled under by overwhelming emotions. Naming and claiming our emotions gives our lives meaning and empowers us.

3.) Design your dream holiday.

Give your self permission to have the holiday you really, truly desire. Do you need to take a quiet retreat, away from the hustle and bustle? Do you want to connect with friends and family in a different way? Would you like to start your own tradition? 

Step 1: Journal down what your dream holiday experience would look like if you stayed true to your heart, true to your own needs and didn’t have to people please nor had any obligations. What is the true cost of people pleasing?

Step 2: Create an inventory of Holiday Events. Now, write down what your holiday usually looks like or what you have already committed to that is not in alignment with your true desire. 

For example, you may want to have a quiet, restorative, connecting holiday experience, but you’ve already committed to 5 events which will be loud, with lots of people, overindulgence, leaving no space for connecting, stillness and recharging. 

What do you truly want? What do you feel obliged to do? The Sweet spot is always in the middle, without needing to compromise yourself. If you want true connection at that busy family gathering, arrive early, make sure to create some 1on1 time with family members, and leave before the ‘spirits’ get too much.

4.) Keep it simple

Align your choices and behaviour with vision of meaning of the holidays. If your vision is to recharge, connect or be peaceful then over doing it with food, alcohol or shopping will get you into the guilt-shame spiral loop of competing priorities internal conflicts. This may leave you feeling resentful, regretful and with a sugar hangover! 

Be mindful of numbing out on sugar, booze, shopping, entertainment, insta-flagellation (You know what I mean. Aimlessly scrolling through the highlight realm of others seasonal celebrations and comparing your life to it!)

Keep it simple, make it matter. Celebrate in a way which is aligned with your values. Share Joy in a way which brings you connection. Eat what brings you nourishment. Spend on the necessities.

5.) Get creative

You don’t have to buy into the Christmas consumption model and add extra financial stress on yourself. Part of the anxiousness in our holiday culture is to people please, to keep up with the Joneses. Let that go. It is not serving anyone. 

Choose to have a green season. Choosing the sustainable route, we teach our children to care for their planet, to waste less, to preserve more and to appreciate the limitless skills which are born from being creative. It feeds our souls, ignites innovation & great ideas. 

Make your own Christmas decorations. I remember a year when my family were down and out, we walked to a park close by picked up little pine cones painted them and hung them on our tree. 25 years later, its still by far my favourite holiday memory. My Mom still has those decorations in the family to remind us to be grateful and that there is always a way through the hard times – together. Dry some orange slices, herbs, pine cones or salted dough shapes and have an eco-friendly one! 

Remember that you get to vote with your money. When you support a small business you are gifting a family their holiday experience. When you support big corporations, you are funding a shareholders bonus. 

Choose sustainable packaging. The sky is really the limit here.

  • Reuse packaging you’ve saved
  • Wrap with newspaper or magazine pages
  • Use a tote or produce bag
  • Make a Furoshiki wrap using a piece of fabric, fabric napkin, scarf or tea towel
  • Use a beeswax wrap

Some more ideas: 

Use preloved gift wrapping paper. Add a herb, cinnamon stick or bell with twine for extra love. Gift zero waste stocking stuffers like reusable straws, bamboo cutlery set or locally made soap. 

Reduce, reuse, repurpose, repair, regift, recycle. 

6.) Take a break from social media

Don’t compare your complicated family dynamics with the ‘highlight’ real of your friends of facebook. They are not posting about the mammoth white elephant photobombing the family photo, they are not instagramming the sadness of missing a loved one, they are not tweeting about inappropriate uncle or nosy cousin. You’re comparing your experience to other’s edited version of the full picture. 

Log out and Tune into the moment.

7.) Set Boundaries

As you know, I’m all about the boundary baseline. You can have the holiday you truly want to experience. Give yourself the gift of self-care. And there is no better self-care practice than setting & maintaining boundaries.

The thought of dealing with the usual suspects at the office party or family gatherings may include these characters for you: 

The Nosy Nancy aunt or office assistant:

She has no filter when it comes to asking things like how much bonus money you got paid this year, when you’ll have a baby (or the next one) or when you’ll finally get married or loose that muffin top? #noneofyourbusiness

Baby Boundary: Don’t take it personally. Often people without any filters do not realise that they are intruding into personal boundary space. Mostly, because she has never been told that its not okay. Start with a request, and then follow it up with a question which you would like to be asked. We lead by example. You could say, “It makes me uncomfortable to answer personal questions. It’s a private matter to me. In future I will take the fifth. What is your favourite things about the holidays? “

The Creepy Dude or Uncle John

Who has no boundaries when it comes to personal space. He totally thinks its okay to grab you, pinch your bum then laugh like’s its normal. Inappropriate! The rest of the family or office may just take it as, “that’s just John. He hasn’t changed” and put up with it like its’ normal too. #TimesUpSacredspace

Baby Boundary: Stand your sacred ground. You could use clear body language by anticipating the usually invasion, and respond by stepping out of the way and saying “Its not okay for you to ………{insert body contact description}”

The drunk/high cousin Carry

Who arrives late and takes the front gate off with her car, then blames the host for moving it or not sign posting it. OR arrives early and secretly eats all the Christmas pudding. #RecoverybyRusselBrand #presentcovered

Boundary: If your cousin is invited to your home. You could make a call prior to the invitation and say “I would love for you to join us, if you stay sober. There will be children present, and I also struggle to connect with you when you are drunk/high. If you arrive drunk or high, I will not allow in and ask you to leave.”

The Pessimistic Patricia Sister (-in-law)

She takes up all the “connection airtime” by complaining about EVERYthing from the weather to the turkey to her ungrateful husband. #Sagesmudgestick

Yes, it’s not only your family. And here is the good news. I know you feel like you have to spend time with these people when it comes to the holidays, but I’m here to tell you that YOU do have a choice!

It requires a conscious brave decision on your part to choose you are to take control of the holiday season for yourself. 

You can transform the this season from something you dread into a season you cherish every year. Start a new tradition, and end off 2019 with a new way of being true to your values. It does not mean that you have to completely excommunicate the crazy (yet loved) part of the family. You can do it with kindness, compassion, and Love.

Wishing you and yours a beautiful, peaceful, restorative season filled with Love, Light & JOY.