How To Protect Your Energy From Draining Family Members During The Holidays
No matter how much you love your family, spending the holidays with them can be draining. When you know people that well, some of their quirks are bound to get under your skin after a while. (My family reads mindbodygreen, so I'll refrain from adding personal anecdotes here.)
This year, the holidays come on the heels of a full moon too, so tension may be running extra high. As mbg's astrology pros The AstroTwins put it, "Holiday season may churn up lots of emotions, and these moody moonbeams can intensify any rifts that have been brewing with relatives... Dreading an upcoming gathering because you-know-who will be there? Rather than having a rumble around the Christmas tree, get proactive."
That might mean having a conversation about whatever it is about the other person that's irking you or just recognizing when it's time to take a few minutes to yourself. Here are a few strategies to help you recharge during the holidays so you can approach every social interaction from a calm and levelheaded place:
1. Call on your intuition.
"Your intuition has some amazing answers for you when you can get quiet and tap in," says professional intuitive and spiritual author Tanya Carroll Richardson. She recommends taking time before you leave for the holidays to sit quietly, ask yourself about the best way to deal with draining family members, and stay open to any intuitive hits. "Answers from your intuition could come as gut instincts, ah-ha ideas, or clairvoyant images in your mind," she says.
She also recommends using the days leading up to the holidays to practice self-care: "This is the best 'shield' you could ever devise—get enough rest, eat clean, take your supplements, avoid unnecessary drama, and get quiet time to recharge. This will make you more grounded and resilient during any holiday gathering."
2. Give this visualization a try.
"Family stuff typically inflames imbalances in the lower chakras," says Erica Matluck, a holistic naturopathic doctor. "So a good way to protect yourself before a family gathering is to visualize a grounding cord (I recommend the roots of a tree) extending from the base of the spine all the way down into the center of the earth." From there, Matluck says to imagine a big, bright sphere above your head that contains only your own energy. "Allow your energy to pour out of the sphere and into the crown of your head, through your whole body and drain down the grounding cord. Repeat the visualization after the family gathering as well. This keeps your energy protected and contained in your space and ensures you won’t bring anybody else’s stuff home with you!"
3. Grant yourself permission to walk away.
Michael Carbaugh, the founder of fragrance studio SANDOVAL, says that adults could use timeouts during the holidays too. If you get overwhelmed during large social gatherings, simply disappear for a few minutes to go into a room, close the door, and breathe deeply 10 times. Follow it up with a 30-second child's pose, and return to the crowd feeling more grounded
If you have some more time to yourself, taking baths (with some Epsom salts thrown in if you have it) is another restorative way to practice self-care, which Carbaugh says is an "invisible shield" in itself.
4. Bring a spiritual tool kit if that's your vibe.
If your family is on board, you can burn sage, thought to expel negative energy, at the beginning of your stay. If doing so would raise some eyebrows, you can carry your spiritual arsenal a little closer to the cuff and carry some crystals in your pockets instead. Carbaugh recommends obsidian ("has been used for centuries to protect and cut through bad vibes") and rose quartz ("the unconditional love stone").
5. Acknowledge negative thoughts, but don't hold on to them for too long.
According to meditation teacher Sah D'Simone, the holidays are an opportunity to practice self-love, patience, and boundaries. "Take a few moments to notice the quality of your feelings and thoughts when you're around your family. If you observe the quality of your internal landscape as negative and sticky, use the support of your breath to reclaim your power to separate what's yours and what could be their projections," he says. "Avoid judgment—of yourself and others. When you allow yourself to see beauty in others, flaws, and all, you're deconditioning your mind from seeing ugliness. Each time this process takes place, you're attuning with the heart's language."
6. Give yourself a "golden passport."
According to NY-based acupuncturist Julie Von, DAOM, a "golden passport" is a useful therapeutic tool to hold on to during any sticky situation. Here's how she explains it:
"Years ago, to empower one of my patients to enforce boundaries, I printed up a mock passport made of gold paper and handed it to her, explaining that it was the ultimate pass out of any place, conversation, situation, or bad vibe that she came across. The golden passport meant she did not have to explain or justify her departure; she could merely exit the situation without a word. It worked like a charm!" From there, Von shared the symbolic tool with more of her empathetic clients and watched them use it as a reminder that they always have the agency to leave draining or toxic situations.
"Merely cultivating a daily practice of space and time, such as a walk or meditation, in which you allow yourself to acknowledge and hear your internal dialogues without blame, shame, and guilt, can provide a more transparent perspective into who and what in your environment enforces these impulses instead of helping you mitigate the stress."
There you have it! By combining mindful pauses, breathwork, and maybe a grounding talisman or two, you'll float through the holidays with a little more ease.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.