What if you walked into the holiday season with the intention of up-leveling yourself? What if you prepared, like a prizefighter would before stepping into the ring, for the holidays being an opportunity to have your own personal growth victory? You can maintain your center and become more of who you are meant to be in the face of family chaos, inevitable buttons being pushed, and unrealized fantasies of the perfect holiday season. Let’s change the paradigm of the holidays being something to get through with all their inherent triggers, overindulgences, and obligations. And let’s embrace the playfulness, connection, and presence the holidays can promise instead, by focusing on keeping ourselves emotionally regulated and checked in with us, throughout. We’re changing the rules of the holiday game, and this year, we’re coming out on top. ‘Tis the season!
If being with certain family members consistently activates you, due to their inappropriateness, lack of boundaries, or their revisiting the unwelcome past, you’re not alone. Here’s the deal: they might never change their tune. You’ve spent every holiday wishing it could be different. And it absolutely can, because this round, you can focus on what you can control: you.
Ahead of time, make a list of the people at your traditional get-togethers who consistently fire you up. Write their names and what they say or do that sets you off. Then write what it affects or how it affects you. Then be honest with yourself, and jot down how you participate in that—because we all do somehow. What’s your part in that dynamic (you argue back, get defensive internally, don’t set boundaries, suffer through)? Then write how you can be different. How you’d like to respond instead of react. Set an intention to use specific tools when you get in that tight spot, with a concrete plan to self-soothe (exit the conversation, find a quiet spot to breathe, get in a quick two-minute meditation, call a lifeline friend for support, do EFT/tapping). Make a pact not to abandon yourself in that moment when you feel triggered, no matter what.
And then prepare yourself the day of. Slow everything down. Practice extreme self-care. Talk to yourself beforehand: “I know this has sometimes been a tough part of the holidays, but I’m walking into this gathering with no expectations of perfection or a Norman Rockwellian ideal of what it should be. It just is what it is. I’m finally OK with that. I am ready to stay close to me, and keep checking in on myself throughout this day. Asking ‘How am I feeling? How am I doing? What do I need now?’ I’m putting the focus on my experience of what’s unfolding instead of on everyone else’s. This is the biggest gift I can give myself right now.”
And by the way, going within is an act of rebellion in a season that is often about externals: shopping, consuming, social and familial obligations—to name a few. Let this be the year that you opt out of the hustle, the frenzy, and the hype of the holiday fantasy that pulls you away from your center. Set the intention of simplicity, calm, and real connection to yourself and the ones you love, with as much ease and grace in every moment as you can bring. Commit to listening to yourself and only showing up for what fills you up: crafting with your kids, the creativity of decorating, baking with festive music on, gatherings with like-minded people. Be present by slowing as much down as you can, giving yourself permission to feel your way through this time of year in a way you maybe never have before. You are empowered to do that, my friend, by giving yourself that gift of your full presence with however you’re choosing to celebrate this holiday season.
“As a present, in the present, practice presence”—your new holiday mantra!