Sometimes I wish life were a Hallmark Channel movie. If it were, every girl would meet the man of her dreams while shopping for a freshly cut Christmas tree at a small town tree stand. He would sweep her off her feet like Prince Charming with his buff bod, cool car, and sugary sweet demeanor. She would have holiday dinner with his large happy family who graciously accept her into the fold. Everyone would be clinking glasses and eating delicious food while their raucous laughter filled the rafters.
Life is not a Hallmark movie. Especially not life in 2020.
The holiday season brings with it mixed emotions-especially this year. We have been asked not to gather in large groups, not to travel, not to unmask. It’s going to be different for sure.
But, even in small gatherings, there can be those who trigger us emotionally. For many people, the holidays are steeped in tradition – not just of the food feast and decorations, but also of the stress associated with them- expectations, histories of past interactions, anticipation, and judgment of what’s to come. The gathering of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins often stir up history and archaic ways of relating that cause anxiety and stress.
Occasionally, I’ve returned to my hometown in Florida to celebrate a major holiday with my dad and his sister’s family. All would be fine with me until I stepped off the airplane. That is when the anticipation of what was to come would start to intensify.
The closer I got to my aunt and uncle’s house the more I would experience anxiety. It took some negotiating with my mind to keep my emotions in check. Without internal coaching, I might have run for the ocean.
You see, as much as I loved seeing my aunt, my anxiety came from the anticipation of having to interact with my uncle and adult male cousins. Throughout my life, I struggled to be in a healthy, loving relationship with them, but never felt I measured up. I drew that conclusion from years of fending off jokes, putdowns, and sarcasm about some aspect of my physical body or experience. As a highly sensitive person, the constant barrage of negativity crushed any chance of connection with them.
My hope is that you have not had to deal with this type of family dynamic, but chances are you have your own horror stories. If you begin feeling anxious, stressed, or uneasy at the thought of gathering with your “trigger people” this holiday season, consider trying these interventions.
- An hour or so before a gathering, take 10-15 minutes to sit in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted and breathe deep and slow breaths. Focus your attention on an image in your mind of a gently flowing stream with a pebble bottom. Imagine it nestled between banks of beautiful tall green trees. Watch the water as it gently carries a maple leaf down the river on its surface. Imagine hearing the birds calling to one another in the distance. See a fly fisherman standing in the shallow water downriver. Notice the rhythm of his cast as he sets his line out in the water. Hold on to these peaceful images for as long as you can. When you emerge, you will be at peace, ready to handle what the day has to offer.
- If your stress or anxiety comes from the expectation others have of you around the holidays, or from memories of past celebrations, consider checking those thoughts at the door. Remind yourself that those events are in the past. This is a new day. Then set an intention for how you would prefer this day to be. In your mind, describe what you would like to feel during the celebration, how you would like it to look, and what would you like to hear others say. Then wait and watch for your intention to manifest.
- If you happen to have a family situation like the one I shared earlier, where you feel like you must protect yourself, consider having a heart-to-heart conversation with the person(s) beforehand. Start the conversation by asking for their assistance. Describe the behavior that is upsetting to you and explain how it has makes you feel. Illustrate how you would prefer to be in relationship with them and ask for their support by changing how they connect with you. What do you have to lose? They will either reply with a yes or a no. At that point, the power lies within you to decide what you will do next.
I hope that these suggestions will support you at any time of year, but especially now as we enter the holiday season. Remember, go in calm, with a set intention to manifest your Hallmark Holiday. (Cue the clinking glasses.)
All the best.