I'm now at my parent's house for Christmas. I've been having a lot of fun, doing pilates, going on walks, and staying up late with my brothers watching TV with the fire burning and Christmas lights on above us. It's really wonderful. However, holidays can also bring a lot of stress with them. Because I work with college students, I get to hear both the joy and the fear or saddness that comes with spending time with family. I feel bad for those that walk into difficult family situations filled with yelling, verbal cut downs, or abuse. That's not what any of us need on our breaks from work or school. However, we sometimes can feel that we can't avoid our families over breaks. The best thing we can do is develop a number of strategies to keep ourselves safe and healthy.
Following are a few suggestions to keep yourself sane and healthy around your family:
1. Develop & maintain healthy boundaries: (See previous posts for information on boundaries) Remember that you can only control your own thoughts, feelings, & behaviors. And you are not responsible for those of others. So make sure to not take on the guilt that family members can try to make you feel.
2. Spend some time laughing each day: Laughter is a wonderful medicine for our souls! Find websites, comics, jokes, or tell funny stories around the table.
3. It's OK to take a breather: Sometimes family tensions can run high, and fights can escalate very quickly. When tensions are running high, it's ok to leave the run and do some deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga to bring your stress and blood pressure down. You'll have a better time if you do that instead of engaging in stupid fights.
4. Have an Out: There's nothing that REQUIRES you to stay in the house with your family 24/7. Find a local bookstore, coffee shop, or a friend's house and take some time alone!
5. Keep a Thankfulness Journal: Sometimes it can seem like everything is going poorly/is stressful/parents nagging/can't ever make anyone happy. Focus on what's good and what's positive in your life, and your mood will increase!
6. Exercise! Exercise helps to decrease stress and increase your mood. Even if it's chilly out, go outside and take a brisk walk while looking at Christmas lights! If it's too cold, check out realage.com and do their 2 walking videos! That will give you 2 miles in about 25 minutes!
7. Remember that it won't last forever You can survive anything for a short amount of time, right?
8. Find common areas of interest, or something you know will keep conversation light: It might be fun to debate religion or politics with family members, but if it leaves people slamming doors or not talking the rest of the night, it may be better to keep conversation light to decrease overall stress in the house.
9. Remember that you can always say NO. You are not required to do everything that everyone else wants to do. You have the right to take care of yourself too. Just remember to work on compromises:)
10. Limit your alcohol. It might make you feel better in the moment, but if you drink too much, you won't be pleasant or enjoy the next morning! Plus, when drinking, it's easy to say or do things that are hurtful to others. Use in moderation.
Of course, these are only a few suggestions, but they have helped me enjoy my days with my family, both immediate and extended, throughout many holidays. Have more ideas? Leave them as a comment or tweet them to me!