Inside Out – Your Holiday Survival Kit

by Anne Brodbeck, Streams Counselling – 

The holidays are upon us and they can come with mixed emotions. To really enjoy the season a holiday survival kit would be a great gift to give yourself. So what would that look like? Here are some ideas.

1. Check your Boundaries. Set limits. What is your yes and what is your no? Be aware of and listen to the signs you’ve had enough. It’s perfectly acceptable to give yourself permission to keep a meeting short. A good resource is Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

2. Create an Emotional Budget. Just like creating a budget when we go shopping, we need to create a budget for our emotional energy. The best way to establish this is to start with an inventory of your resources such as time, circumstances, energy, fatigue level or travel.

Allocate emotional energy. To ascertain this ask yourself things like:
• What is the optimal amount of time you’re willing to spend at this event, or with this person? Be aware of quality time rather than quantity.
• To help you gauge how long to stay, reflect on past experiences. What made them successful or disastrous? You may need to take a break or stay elsewhere.
• Predetermine answers to what you know your relatives may say. Decide on the amount of information you wish to share, and be careful to avoid topics likely to spark arguments.
• Look for opportunities to apologize for past quarrels.
• Formulate answers for favours you may be asked.
• Agreeing to disagree may be a more loving approach to family members with different opinions.
• What is your exit plan if things go crazy?

3. Tools to Employ – as required.
• Permission – when you find your energy depleting and diplomacy evaporated, allow yourself to take a break.
• Breathing – breathe and stay calm.
• Listen – take time to listen and ask questions. Respond rather than react by being mindful of your own thoughts and behaviour. It’s perfectly natural to change the subject or allow distraction to bring a new topic forward.
• Lower expectations. Be aware that some family members may be unable to meet your standards of behaviour. Be respectful of their limitations and choose gracious communication.

4. Self Care. In order to be fully present, have a self-care plan in place. Some ideas here are:
• Allow yourself enough down time.
• Ground yourself with whatever makes you feel balanced, such as exercise and personal routines.
• Focus on the positive aspects of your family visit. Dwelling on the negative will ignite anxiety and likely hinder your enjoyment.

5. Put Fun into Family.
• Be ready with light, uplifting topics of conversation.
• Prepare interactive games or activities that are whimsical in nature.
Remember, your presence is a gift. Keep things light and lower your expectations. You are responsible for your own emotions and actions, not other people.

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