It’s that time of year again! While many of us can appreciate and enjoy the tradition and festive cheer, not all of the feelings that arise during this season are festive.
What is it about the holidays that can put you in a funk? In this article, I going to discuss how family dynamics may play a role in the holiday ugh, and give you some tools to waltz through this season with a little more comfort and ease.
Family has a different meaning for each of us. The core of the concept, in my opinion, is really lovely. Family can be your tribe. The people who have known you since the day you were born. Those who you share a name and history with.
But family is also complicated. Just as romantic relationships are filled with both good and bad feelings, family is the same way.
Your family of origin significantly influenced who you are. Your relationships with your parents and siblings shaped how you currently relate to other people. For better and for worse.
The holidays, more than any other time of year, are centered around spending time with family. This could mean visiting the town you grew up in, being back in your childhood home, or visiting relatives you only see once a year. While it’s nice to be reminded of those early memories of home, it can also take you back to feelings and experiences that weren’t so comforting or nice.
If you’re an adult now, it’s likely you’ve separated from your first family. Perhaps you’ve created a family of your own. You’ve grown and changed, and you feel different now. But when you spend time with family, all the hard work and changes go out the window.
That’s right. Nothing will cause you to regress faster than your family.
I think Ram Dass says it nicely, “If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.” Exactly.
The holidays have this way of taking us back to our first experiences of family, which is what stirs up those funky feelings.
That said, you can still have a great time this holiday season, and you can do it with your family! Just know that you may have to navigate through some uncomfortable feelings, as well. Here are some tools for your holiday survival kit:
1. Know that it’s normal for you to feel triggered by your family.
Sometimes when we struggle with our families, we can get down on ourselves about it. You might judge yourself, or call yourself things like impatient or rude. Just try to be easy and compassionate with yourself. Know that you are bound to act a little less enlightened around your family of origin. It’s OK; it happens to us all.
2. Take space.
If you feel like you’re overwhelmed by your family, take some space. This can be in the form of walks, alone time, drives into town, road trips, whatever you need to do to catch a breather. Space will allow you to come back to your sense of self, which will help you feel more grounded in the presence of your family.
3. Practice setting boundaries.
Some of us have difficulty setting boundaries with family. Watch yourself if you begin to feel overly obligated — it’s a sign that you need to set a boundary. Listening to your truth and acting accordingly (“I would prefer not to ______.”), will keep you from feeling overwhelmed this time of year.
4. Remind yourself that you are different now, but you might feel like the “old you” while hanging out with your family.
Again, family causes us to regress into old patterns and ways. There’s not much you can do about it. Just know that these feelings will pass once the holidays do.
5. Reach out to your current support system.
People who you’re close to now can help you remember who you are if you start to feel lost during the holidays. Reach out to friends and other loved ones for a good dose of support over the holidays.
Bonus: Try to accept your family members as they are. If you feel up for this one, go for it! (It’s a little advanced.) A key to finding acceptance and appreciation for your family is recognizing that as an adult, you’re no longer dependent on them in the same way that you were as a child. This acknowledgment of separation can help you relate to them as other human beings, rather than as people who “owe” you something. The more consciousness you can bring to this time of year, the better. Remind yourself that, like the rest of life, the holidays are filled with both good and bad. Enjoy the good, take care of yourself in the bad, and if you get around to it, try to spread a little cheer.
Written by, Shelley Bullard
Shelly Bullard is a student and teacher of Love. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (CA#51081) turned Love Coach. She believes romantic relationships are a way in which we spiritually transform. Our most profound growth comes from evolving through issues that arise in relationships, leading us to a deeper sense of joy, connection, and fulfillment in love. Shelly’s purpose in life is to guide people through this process.
Please leave a comment below telling us how you cope with your uncomfortable feelings during the holidays. Wishing you warmth, love, and peace this holiday season.