Now that we’re through Thanksgiving and into the holiday swing, here are 5 habits that will set you up for success through the holidays. And by “success,” I mean getting through the holidays feeling good about yourself and without wanting to murder anyone in your family.
Holidays are a major trigger time for many of us. Between the focus on food, family, and enforced fun, it can kick up major feelings of insecurity and abandonment and put pressure on areas of addiction. Not to mention stirring up family memories and dynamics that many of us would rather keep stuffed in a locked drawer.
If you love the holidays and have none of these triggers, wonderful! These habits will also support you in having a great time while also cultivating empathy for those who aren’t having such a great time.
Habit #1: Sit yourself down and do nothing.
The holidays can be a major time of stress and running around. You’re trying to find the perfect gift. The 3 stores near you don’t have the obscure ingredient called for in your grandmother’s special pie recipe and you’re afraid to disappoint your mother by making a bad substitution. The traffic is bananas and your city is glutted with dumb tourists who don’t know how to walk down the street right.
If you don’t have time to meditate, it’s a sign that you desperately need to meditate.
Even if it’s for 5 minutes, just sit down and put your attention on your breath. Skip the timer, if that feels best. Or use an app with words or music so you can just let go and listen, if that feels best.
You could focus on feeling where your breath enters your nostrils. You could focus on the expansion in your ribcage or belly. It doesn’t really matter, just sit.
It’s more about breaking the pattern of stress and overwhelm in your mind and nervous system then it is about hitting some sort of externally defined target, like 20 minutes or a quiet mind.
Habit #2: Keep it moving.
Even if you don’t have a dedicated gym or movement practice, the holidays are a good time to cultivate some movement in your life. Whether it’s a post-prandial walk, a stretching routine in front of the TV, or pushups next to the bed, incorporating movement into the holiday season helps move emotional energy that might otherwise get stuck and fester.
The holidays are a heightened time for everybody, so you probably have more feelings than usual. And instead of going down the spiral of whatever story your head cooks up about how your aunt looked at you, or what your father said, and ending up in the basement of despair, you could choose to put on some music and dance it out of your body instead.
Habit #3: Make amends.
The holidays are a perfect time to reflect on the past year (or 50!) and see where you might have amends to make. Chances are if people are triggering you, you’re triggering someone, too. Make an honest assessment of your relationships and where you could clean up your side of the street.
Watch out for making sneaky apologies that pull for a certain response from the other person, whether it’s to get them to apologize to you or to feel bad for the thing they did that had you react badly.
Amends work best when they’re ONLY about what you did and what you want to do better in the future.
So go ahead and set up a phone call to own something you did that you’re unhappy with and how you intend to do better next time. And go into 2019 with a clear conscience and a lighter load.
Habit #4: Be curious
Did a friend say something that landed weird with you? Be curious and ask what’s up for them.
Does a family member seem shut down at the party? Be curious and ask if something’s happened that they’re upset about.
Curiosity goes a long way during an emotionally heightened season like the holidays. Instead of immediately shutting down or assuming someone’s worst intentions when they say something “off,” and instead of starting a fight, decide in advance to stay curious. By doing so you make it possible for a deeper, more genuine connection to unfold.
Even if your offer of curiosity isn’t met with openness from the other person, by being curious you’ve probably averted a fight and the resulting jangle in your system from which it can take hours or days to recover.
You don’t have to like someone to be curious. You don’t have to agree with someone to be curious. Being curious means you get your attention off yourself and your own reactivity for a moment (don’t worry, you can have it back if you want it!) and try to understand where they’re coming from. If we all did that, the world would feel very different than it does right now.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” — Dr. Stephen R. Covey
Habit #5: Get your SEP on.
Sleeping, eating, and pooping are three crucial ways you can regulate your emotions throughout the holiday season.
Make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep. Limit screen time before bed, or wear blue light blocking glasses to mitigate the screens’ effect, keep the room cool enough that you don’t wake up sweating, and try to go to bed and wake up at the consistent times that are right for you.
Limit sugar and alcohol, both of which are probably responsible for the most fights and tears of anything we ingest. Look at how toddlers come down after a sugar high and you have a pretty clear picture of what happens in your nervous system when you binge on sugar and alcohol.
Eat nourishing and grounding foods, making sure to include vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins. Staying grounded goes a long way to avoiding a spat with your mom if she passes the peas with a snippy comment.
Do what you can to keep your pooping on track. Do you get constipated or have loose stools when you get stressed? Emotions have a hand in that, and there are also physical things you can do to help your digestion stay steadier.
Taking magnesium can help with constipation, warm cooked foods, like rice, and probiotics can help with looseness. All digestive issues are helped by your giving yourself permission to feel what’s being kicked up emotionally, and addressing it however you need to, instead of directing it inward at your guts.
The holidays can be a source of joy, love, and connection, and they can be a nightmare. Setting yourself up for success with these 5 habits goes a long way towards having the agency to create the holiday experience you want to have instead of being a victim of your circumstances.
The more you cultivate your own agency in the face of the pull of your oldest patterns by cultivating habits that boost clarity and resourcefulness in the face of the shenanigans that would typically wreck you, the closer you are to marshaling the power you need to create the life you want.
The relationship you desire is possible! Click HERE to discover what missing pieces are stopping you from having the connection and passion you desire.