You’re a bonafide adult. You have utility bills, a credit card (or six), a routine that includes enriching activities like reading and yoga class, you drive a car and support yourself. Maybe you’re doing a great job too: not only are you keeping the lights on in your life, maybe you’re even thriving in the life you’ve created. That is… until you go “home” or visit your family.
Suddenly you’re 12 again. You might not feel differently, but you’re keenly aware that you’re being treated differently than people in your life treat you now. It feels like… oh yeah, cellular-memory kicks, in, it feels like you’re trapped and your well-deserved freedom is gone!
I have good news for you: You’re right. Also, you’re wrong.
It’s true that in family-situations, you may exchange some of your earned-freedoms for bonding time. But not all of your freedom is gone and certainly not your freedom over your mind.
I can tell you first hand from the midst of my own experience traveling from sunny Southern California to freezing Middle of Nowhere, New Jersey.
Over the last five years, and particularly the last two, I’ve been shining my anxiety-and-stress-fighting shield and peace sword. I’ve been to ashrams across India, studied with masters in Nepal, helped those with critical illnesses breathe through excruciating pain, I’ve experienced emotional pain from loneliness and heartbreak as well as physical pain: what’s it like to break your arm on a mountaintop? Or get thrown off your motorbike onto graveled pavement?
I should be good when it comes to a holiday with my parents, right? Well…
Here are my top tips for doing the best you can to save your sanity over the holidays with family!
1. Take time for yourself every morning. Especially if you’re in a live-in situation with family, make time for you in the morning. If you have to wake up early to do it, do it. Create the space first thing because, in doing so, you can give yourself the mindset needed to be a love superhero. My morning practice in NJ is a short yoga practice, usually ten minutes, before sitting for pranayama (breath techniques) and a 20 minute meditation. Afterward, I journal and set a daily intention which describes the qualities I want to cultivate within myself in my daily interactions. For example, I’ll say “Today I want to be a good listener, I want to fill myself up with love, recharge when needed and come back to family when I can be fully present to them. This means I meet my own needs.”
If you’re new to meditation, I cannot recommend Insight Timer highly enough. It features over 10,000 free streaming guided meditations, including 7 meditations from yours truly! My holiday cure? Try “Breathing Through Overwhelm” – an energy shifting practice in under 9 minutes.
2. Get outside. For some reason, we tend to spend more time inside when visiting with family. Don’t let yourself get stuck in the house. This is stifling your physical space which translates to your mental and energetic space, it creates disconnection. Make sure you get outside at least once per day, but I recommend three times when around family. Walking on earth is a grounding practice. Notice the nature outside, even if its suburban grass patches. Move your body. Ground yourself in nature.
3. Get triggered? Remove yourself from inflammatory conversations before you react. If you feel anger, resentment or heat building within you, don’t respond to the trigger. It’s ok to take a break. Excuse yourself and take time alone. Studies show that you can shift from the “fight or flight” area of your brain to your rational mind with three deep breaths. Take six of them. Then sit for 30 seconds. Come back to family when you can relate from a non-reactive place. Rise. Repeat.
4. Empathy. It might feel like family is being mean or pushing buttons on purpose. It’s not their conscious intention. Trust me, your mom doesn’t wake up in the morning and say “I wonder what I can do to irritate my kids today.” No. Your family is doing the best they can. They may not have the perspective or tools that you have and they may never be able to learn it either. Drop your expectations that they should be anything other than how they are or that they should change to be better. They are doing the best they can, find empathy. They love you, they just don’t know how to get you to feel it. That’s your job anyway. Feel it. They love you. That’s why you’re there.
5. Embrace right now. Whatever is happening right now, it’s the time for it. The time will pass and something new will fill its place. No need to hold your breath through it, waiting for something else. Embrace whatever is, you might even have some fun with it if you do. So if you are going insane, can you laugh about it? Sanity is boring anyway. Now may just be the perfect time for a little insanity, for family shenanigans, for whatever it is that you’re feeling. Remember it will pass and new moments will arise!
If you need more support this holiday season, reach out for a meditation or heart-centered coaching session.