• Holiday Survival: Managing Difficult Holiday Get Togethers

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    Holiday Survival: Managing Difficult Holiday Get Togethers

    Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or the holiday season, the upcoming weeks are likely filled with various events and family gatherings. Some may bring joy, while others can be stressful and triggering. 

    It’s crucial to remember that you can’t change how other people act but you have the power to manage your well-being.

    In this blog we will share strategies to prioritize your well-being during difficult events this holiday season.

    Set Boundaries

    Take a moment to identify and establish boundaries that honor your needs and values. You may decline invitations to events that may be triggering or overwhelming and set limits on interactions and conversations at gatherings.  

    Part of setting boundaries involves having a plan of how you will respond when someone encroaches on your boundary. 

    For example: If your boundary is to not discuss your dating life over the holidays and well meaning aunt Carol asks why you’re still single, your power lies in how you choose to respond. Take a breath and decide – will I stay in this uncomfortable conversation or will I say that I’m happy with how things are and excuse myself to check on [the stuffing/my partner/if you locked the car door/grandma/etc].

    Grant yourself permission to prioritize your well-being over social obligations.

    Creating Safe Spaces

    Whether you’re at home, a restaurant, or another person’s home, take a moment to assess where would be a quiet space to retreat and recharge. It can be a spare room, a cozy corner, a bathroom, a quick visit to the garage to “dispose of the recycling” or maybe even stepping outside for some fresh air. 

    You will likely need different places for each event. There are many ways to take private space, even when there are plenty of people around. 

    Mindful Breathing

    We know it sounds cliché but breathing can reduce anxiety and bring a sense of calmness during moments of stress. 

    Take long, deep breaths into your diaphragm (belly). Counting four Mississippi’s while you inhale and four Mississippi’s while you exhale. 

    This will keep you grounded by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (the one responsible for rest and digest), giving you back control over your emotions.

    Use it as soon as things start feeling uncomfortable and triggering and know that you can come back to it at any moment throughout the event. 

    Plan Your Exit Strategy

    Okay, you mustered up the courage to go, had no option but to go, or were really excited to go and it’s not what you expected and now you’re overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and on the verge of tears. This is an important moment to acknowledge that you have the choice to leave. You don’t have to stay. 

    When will you go?

    What will signal that it’s time to go. Is it a certain event (eg. dessert, gifts) or time? For example, you might decide that after Secret Santa you’ve met your obligation for the evening and are comfortable going. 

    You may also decide that you will leave earlier if you reach a 7/10 in discomfort and your coping plan hasn’t worked. 

    Who is your lifeline?

    Do you have a safe person at the event who can help you carry out the exit plan? If you have a partner or friend with whom you are attending? Have a plan for how you will communicate to one another that it’s time to go.

    What is your code word?

    A code word is a word or activity that you will engage in to cue to your lifeline that it is time to go. It can help to have a separate code for when you are feeling overwhelmed and need connection and a separate code for when you’ve reached your limit and it’s time to go. 

    What is your excuse?

    Skip the bells and whistles, short and sweet is all you need: “It’s getting late, I’m going to head out” “thanks so much for hosting, I had a great time. See you —” 

    What’s your means of transportation?

    Do not skip this part of planning, especially if you plan to use alcohol or other substances. Who is your designated driver? Does Uber take calls out there? What’s a taxi service you can use? What is the bus route and schedule that you will need to follow? 

    You’re not planning because you want something to go wrong. You’re planning so that you’re prepared and don’t feel stuck if something does go awry.

    Manage Expectations

    This may not be “the most magical time of the year” and that’s okay. 

    Embrace imperfections and let go of the pressure to create a perfect holiday experience. Instead, focus on creating meaningful connections and moments that align with your values. Reflect on what truly brings you joy during this season and prioritize those aspects.

    Show Self-Compassion

    Remember to be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Engage in self-care activities that nurture your mind, body, and soul. This can include practicing gratitude, journaling, taking relaxing baths, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy.

    By prioritizing your well-being, setting boundaries, creating safe spaces, practicing mindful breathing, planning your exit strategy, managing expectations, and showing yourself compassion, you can navigate difficult holiday gatherings with greater peace and ease.