Don’t get me wrong, I love everything about the holiday season. I love gingerbread houses, I love eggnog, I love 24 hour replays of A Christmas Story. But the holidays also give me anxiety because it’s the one time of the year where you can’t excuse your way out of family gatherings.
For some of us, as fun and exciting as the holidays can be, it also presents a time where we come face to face with our emotional baggage that we’ve carried around since childhood. Maybe it’s a bruised ego from one of mom’s comments, or that argument with your brother whom you’ve never made amends with.
Whatever it is, I know we’re all crossing our fingers hoping that this holiday season moves along smoothly. So how can we be as prepared as possible?
1. Identify Your Triggers
Do a little self exploration to become aware of your triggers: certain situations that will trigger you to respond or think negatively. Is it seeing a particular relative? Is it anxiety over having a certain conversation? Knowing what will trigger you will allow you to come up with a game plan and be prepared for the triggers before they occur.
2. Remove Your Masks
The surest way to have a terrible time with family is to try to act in a way that you think your family expects of you. What I call putting on the “family mask.” When we wear this mask, we act how we think we should act instead of how we normally are. This can lead to all sorts of negative feelings like feeling dishonest or feeling unworthy. It also takes a lot more energy to maintain a certain image rather than being yourself. It’s just easier to do you. Instead of faking a smile, try to smile from a place of authenticity. Act how you normally would around your closest friends or people you’re most comfortable with. Allow yourself to be you. When you let your family see the most authentic part of who you are without any worries of judgment, it will get easier and easier to be around them during the holidays.
3. Share Yourself
It’s easy to get closed off during the holidays especially if you find yourself reacting to your triggers. But the more you close off, the more you feed into the negative energy, and the more you’ll feel disconnected. Be generous and share yourself with your family even if you feel like it’s the hardest thing to do at that moment. Use it as an opportunity to have a conversation with a relative you normally try to avoid or an opportunity to express your gratitude. It takes a lot of courage but your heart will be beaming with joy.
4. Maintain Your Balance
Whatever you do to keep yourself centered, do it with utmost dedication and consistency for the holiday season. Maybe you feel your best when you’re physically active. Make a conscious effort to keep up your exercise routine these next few weeks. Maybe you feel your best when you take time to meditate. Set aside time for yourself to meditate right before you leave for the family gathering. While you’re there, have a meditation or pranyama handy when you feel yourself needing to recharge. Alternate nostril breathing is a GREAT pranayama to bring you back to your center. Lock yourself in the bathroom for 3 minutes with this breathing exercise and you will find yourself ready to face your triggers with confidence and ease!