If you are heading home for the holidays, try the three tips below to avoid reverting back to old emotional patterns with your family.
This article was inspired by one of my favorite quotes: “If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family.”
Old reactions you thought you transcended years ago may come pouring out of you the moment you walk in the door of your childhood home. Our family members are the ones who designed and installed our buttons, so they’re the ones who know exactly when, where, and how to push them.
It is easy to fall into these old habits over the holidays because people still view us as the teenager we were when we left. That makes it much easier for us to deal with demands like a little kid would.
What if you try a different approach this holiday season? What if, instead of assuming there will be strife, and retreating to Netflix in your room, or drinking too much eggnog, we arm ourselves with a lot of love and compassion? Here are three tips to help you make the most of the holidays by negotiating your family time a little more elegantly.
1. Mind the gap.
If something happens over the holiday — say, Uncle Ted is drinking too much or Aunt Mathilda is screaming at you — and you find yourself engaging in an old fight-or-flight stress reaction, I want you to think of the words “Mind the gap.”
There is always a small gap between any stimulus and your subsequent response. Take a breath into that gap, instead of fighting or fleeing every time you’re met with a triggering stimulus. So if someone says something you don’t like, use the gap to stop, take a breath, feel your feet on the ground, and ask yourself, “How can I respond to this in a way that will make both of us feel better and that I’ll feel proud of tomorrow?” THEN respond. There is a great breathing technique called the "2x breath" you can use if you need to take a walk around the block before you respond.
2. Meditate every day.
It's easy to convince yourself that you don't have to meditate over the holidays, but putting it in the non-negotiable category during these high demand times is even more important. If you don't have a meditation practice yet, now would be a great time to start.
Stressors like being with family, traveling a long distance home, and dealing with crowds while holiday shopping can all burn up our adaptation energy. It’s important to remember that we actually get the most out of our time with others when we take care of ourselves first.
Schedule time to meditate, even if that means just sitting up in bed and doing a session before you go out to greet everyone in the morning, or making a run to Starbucks and meditating in your car, in the parking lot. If you take that time for yourself to refill your reservoirs with bliss, rest, and fulfillment, then you’re going to have so much more to deliver to your family.
3. Water the flowers, not the weeds.
Let’s say that you’re in a situation where the proverbial s*** is hitting the fan; people are arguing, screaming, and throwing angry words in every which direction.
Even if someone is taking things out on you, instead of reacting to it, what if you simply sit there and love them? What if you notice the most beautiful thing about them in that moment? Maybe they took a lot of care with their hair that day, or maybe you can see the Christmas lights twinkling off of their eyes. It doesn’t have to be profound, simply notice the most beautiful thing about them in that moment and put your attention on it. What we put our attention on grows, so we want to take care that we are watering the flowers and not the weeds.
They will feel that love coming towards them, and sometimes that will soften the behavior. Even if it doesn’t spark an immediate change, the simple action of loving them helps shift the energy in the room towards appreciation instead of hostility.
So instead of going home to your family and trying to fix everybody, prove how successful you are, or get the validation that you never got enough of as a kid, what if you instead use this holiday season as a time to deliver some love? Remember: mind the gap, meditate, and put your attention on the most beautiful parts of your family. Making a bit of effort to do these three things will be a gift to you and your family — a more valuable one than anything you will find under the tree.
For more advice on how to find your bliss, check out my online course with mbg.
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