How to Survive the Holidays With Your Family Mindfully

Holidays can be a wonderful and stressful time. We may both yearn to connect with our families and dread it in equal measure! Here are 7 tips for surviving the holiday season with your family mindfully:

#1 Set an Intention For Peace

What do you want for this holiday season? How do you want to feel? Set your intention. Practice to BE the peace that you want to see in your family. Take a few minutes to think about the intention you want to set this holiday season. Maybe it’s “Go with the flow.” Or, “Be positive.” Or, “Be the peace.” When you’ve chosen your intention, say it out loud to see how it feels. Then say it out loud again. Say it out loud during the day, like first thing in the morning, while you’re waiting in line, and just before you lie down for sleep.

#2 Lower Your Expectations For Your Family Members

Everything probably wasn’t perfectly hunky-dory growing up for you, and why is that? Because everyone struggles with something. In my own family, my father grew up with abusive parents—but that was normal at the time! For most of our own parents, they were raised in a time where using a switch or belt to beat a child was normal and expected, so they have trauma. They have coping mechanisms that they developed as kids in a tough situation that they’re likely to carry into adulthood. Many people are suffering, and family situations bring them out of their comfort zones into a more stressful situation. Expect unskillful statements. Criticisms may still hurt, but you can summon some compassion for the origins of the unskillfulness.

#3 Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries!

You may have asked a family member not to interact with you or your child in a certain way. Just as you would with your child, hold that boundary with compassion. Ask nicely. Remind gently. Your family member is learning to break a habit of how they interact with you, so the more compassion and support you can provide, the better. If you can give these gentle reminders in a light-hearted and friendly way, you’ll be more likely to receive a positive response back. If this doesn’t work, remove yourself and/or your child from the situation without raising your voice or being blameful. You may want to say something like, “I’ve tried to be clear on my wishes, so I’m going to have to remove myself from the room.”

#4 Ground Yourself Every Day

What makes you feel grounded? Is your heart, mind, and nervous system settled by time outside in nature, hugs, or a quiet cup of tea? Choose to ground yourself daily during the holidays.

The breath is a great tool to ground ourselves, and it’s available all the time. You can pause and breathe deeply and slowly to slow down your energy and become more present. One mindful breath can make all the difference in the world to yourself, to your child, to the only moment that counts: right now.

Connect with now and release stress by pausing with 3 deep, slow breaths:

- Before drinking your coffee

- Before starting the car

- Before responding to your child

- Before transitioning to a new task

- Before eating dinner

- Before going to bed tonight.

#5 Simplify for More Ease

Give yourself permission to slow down, to simplify your celebration, and to do things differently so that you don't need a holiday from your holidays. We want this to be a time filled with magic, giving and wonder. That’s what it’s supposed to be. But for many of us, the holidays can quickly become stressful and overwhelming. It becomes one of the busiest, most expensive, and most draining times of the year. I invite you to cut yourself some slack. Can you give yourself permission not to go all out on your decor, events, gifts, etc? I know that this can be hard because we don't want to risk disapproval or let others down. So find the middle path for yourself and your family.

#6 Loosen the Reins With Your Child

Many times when we’re faced with a stressful time (like a holiday with our family), our default setting is to try to control more because of our anxiety. Is this you? If so, it may be helpful to set the intention to soften a bit during the holidays. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let your child wear pajamas to school if they want (if the school doesn’t like it, bring their clothes in a bag). Let your child stay up a little later. Try your best not to stress about all the sugar. Instead of focusing on what's wrong, try to focus on finding the moments your child is kind, helpful, and joyful. Loosen up a bit, keeping the big picture in mind.

#7 Lean Into the Good

Toss out all notions of achieving perfection, but try to create moments that are special to you. Maybe that is sitting in front of the fire in cozy winter socks sipping eggnog when everyone has left. Or just enjoy the simplicity of your family members’ presence without expecting a lot.

Lean into generosity to empathize more with your family. Try giving every person in your family an honest compliment, giving a shoulder massage or back rub, or giving a story/joke or tickle. Notice what’s good this holiday season and lean into it, really feeling the sensations of joy in your body. This time is fleeting. It will be gone soon, so as best we can, let’s be really present for the good. 

Remember, you have permission to be human. If the stress gets to you and you lose it at your kid, I have a resource for you. You can click here to get my free guide, You Just Yelled Now What?

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