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Alleviating Holiday Family Stress

It is that wonderful time of year again! We allow ourselves to eat more than usual, drink more than usual, and indulge in giving and receiving things we want but do not need. For some people, however, family gatherings can be emotionally challenging. We have so much history with our close and sometimes our extended families that getting together can be nerve wracking. I know for myself holidays have been just plain sad since my father died last year. They make his absence more pronounced than it usually is.

You may be triggered by family gatherings because they bring back unpleasant memories of childhood. Seeing the uncle you called you tubby when you were eleven, the sibling who bullied you, and the parents who let them, trigger feelings of powerlessness. For introverts, the holidays can be overwhelming due to the sheer numbers of people gathering coupled with increased noise.

When we pay attention to our bodies we can get in touch with on our emotional state. Tension in the shoulders, for example, may indicate that you are feeling the need to protect yourself even though you are no longer a vulnerable child. Bringing awareness to what is going on in your body and calmly bringing attention to relaxing those areas of tension can, in turn, improve your emotional well-being.

The holidays are a time when practicing mindfulness is crucial. Slowing down, breathing deeply, and calmly observing can be difficult but also carry us through family tensions. They can also help us to stop and appreciate what is going well, moments of joy that can be missed amongst all the hurrying and traveling. Our unresolved feelings about family members are usually not addressed in constructive ways during the holidays. So, it is a time to look inward and gain insight into triggers and practice emotional regulation. It is also a good time to meet with a family coach for support and empathy while you navigate the ups and downs of family togetherness.

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