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Home for the Holidays: 5 Ways to Survive & Even Enjoy Your Family
Posted: 12/18/2013 | Happiness Comments
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Ahhh … the holidays!

I’m sure you have stories of holiday’s past that are dear to you. Most of us have some great memories that we will cherish forever. Whether it’s making cookies, decorating, shopping for that perfect gift, or even figuring out to whom we’re going to give the fruitcake, we all have those sweet moments to hold close.

Along with those great times,
if we were being completely honest, there might have also been some moments that were not so great. Spending time with family can often be a mixed emotional bag for many of us.

Truthfully, we’ve all had moments
when we’ve wanted to roll our eyes, thinking holidays past. It’s no accident there are so many seasonal movies and TV shows depicting difficult and challenging family gatherings. Whether it was burned stuffing, mislabeled presents, someone not on their best behavior, most of us have a few of those memories too. Perhaps you have enough material to write your own comedy of errors.

Even if you love seeing your family at the holidays, it’s so easy to be triggered when you’re with them. In many ways, you can find yourself stepping back into an old dynamic you may have forgotten about while living your adult life. Suddenly, you’re a kid again, fighting with your sibling, competing for a parent’s attention, or experiencing disappointment once again. Maybe you’re bracing yourself against perceived judgment, or maybe you’re preparing to share a major life decision you don’t think they’ll like. Maybe you enjoy your family tremendously, but emotions get stirred up and the visits can be trying, maybe even exhausting. Maybe you thought those feelings were resolved a long time ago, but a simple interaction brings it all up again, giving you an opportunity to heal those still unhealed places in you.

How can you take care of yourself while spending time with your family?
Here are 5 ways to keep your sanity intact while appreciating your time together.

1.    Let go of expectations. A lot of holiday stress comes from thinking our time together should look a certain way. We “should” feel loving, harmonious and peaceful, and we “should” enjoy each other’s company, give the right presents, eat the right foods. We get caught up in doing it “right,” as if there’s a right or wrong way to experience our lives. Our holiday fantasies often omit real life circumstances, like an elderly parent who just doesn’t feel good, a fickle oven, a new baby or a bunch of unruly kids. Keep your good intentions in mind but soften your hold on the expectations (and illusion of control) that a family visit should go a certain way. You may be surprised how much better it can be when you let it evolve naturally, including the ups and downs.
2.    Take a time out. Sometimes you just need a break so you don’t react to your family. When you feel you need it, don’t be afraid to separate from the fray. Go cry in the bathroom if you need to, or step outside and call a friend who can laugh with you at your family’s antics. Walk around the block while breathing deeply, or run to the store for a last minute item. Take a few minutes to clear your head and settle your thoughts before jumping back in again.
3.    Journal. Not only is this an exceptional way to reduce stress and process your feelings, and your family is masterful at stirring up feelings! Journaling is also a great way to record your interactions and experiences with your family. One day, you’ll look back and perhaps laugh, and you might be so glad to remember time spent with loved ones long after they’ve passed or when the kids have grown.
4.    Think of these triggers as a “gift.” It’s no fun to feel upset, but remember that important personal and spiritual growth lies in healing historical family wounds. Your reactions might seem exaggerated in your family setting, but the unresolved thoughts and feelings underneath it all affect every area of your life. When you see and feel the trigger, you can follow it to its source and begin to dismantle it. As your feelings and thoughts emerge, and you allow yourself to experience, understand and process it all, your healing is happening. Eventually those triggers will lose their punch. You won’t be affected as deeply anymore.
5.    Today is tomorrow’s memory. Try to be mindful that each conversation, meal, and activity is a memory in the making, and comprises another family story you’ll tell down the line. The burnt cookies, weird gift or political argument might seem charming in retrospect, and could illustrate the qualities and shared values you love about your family, like spontaneity, resilience, or playfulness. When you hold this larger perspective, it’s much easier to relax into the moment.

Are you spending time with family this year? What ways have you learned to cope? Please share your comments; they make a difference for all of us.

For further information on accessing your wisdom, happiness, fulfillment, and peace you desire, click here to learn about Dr. Howard's Multiple Award Winning Book "Your Ultimate Life Plan: How to Deeply Transform Your Everyday Experience and Create Changes That Last."


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