Tips To Survive Holiday Stress – Insights from the Wilderness #74

Tips To Survive Holiday StressThe Christmas holidays can be a magical time reconnecting with family; a time of year filled with parties, friends, and the excitement of children.

Or you may identify more with those who have holiday stress, who go through the motions during the holiday but emotionally can’t wait for them to be over; eating too much food; spending way too much money to show friends and family that you love them; or one more opportunity to spend time with your wacky sister and her spoiled kids. Yeaaaa!

Hanging out with family and friends can be fun, but it’s also important to remind yourself that your siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, old friends, and even your own children all have the power to cause you to emotionally regress back into a person from the past.

In other words, it’s normal for the primitive ego of your unconscious inner-child to feel mildly uncomfortable and a bit stressed being around “family” at the holidays. It’s common to experience mild feelings of impatience, anxiety, sadness or a sense of disassociation; that spacy disengaged feeling that has you looking forward to being alone.

Emotional triggers from the past may lie dormant most of the year, but when you find yourselves in the presence of family around the holidays you would do well to stay awake and pay attention to what’s going on inside you emotionally.

This is especially important if you grew up in a dysfunctional home environment; a childhood exposed to painful or traumatic experiences such as alcoholism, physical abuse, or emotional abuse; the kinds of experiences from childhood that can cause your unconscious primitive ego to be very sensitive to subtle emotional triggers.

It’s often hard to know if your childhood family was dysfunctional, but given the reality there are no perfect parents or childhoods, there’s a good chance you are carrying unconscious emotional triggers with you into your Christmas festivities.

Learn To Stay Awake

It is easy and normal to “fall asleep” or “numb out” when surrounded by family but you’ll enjoy the holidays more if you don’t.

The secret to enjoying a family gathering is learning to intentionally pay attention to how you’re feeling. When you make the decision to stay “awake and fully conscious” when you’re with family, you will know when you’re saying or doing things that you would not normally do or say. You’ll know when old feelings are getting triggered. And when they do, just sit with them. Pay attention to them. Just because we have a “feeling” doesn’t mean we have to act on it.

5 Important Tips To Survive the Holiday Stress

Here are five important tips on how to help you reduce holiday stress; to stay awake so you can identify when your “emotional self” is being triggered and inviting you to re-visit an earlier time in your life.

  1. Over eating and drinking. Most holiday festivities are structured around food and alcohol. One of the ways we unconsciously deal with triggered emotions is through over eating and drinking. If you find yourselves grazing on fattening, high calorie foods and drinking too much alcohol you’ve probably been triggered. Wake up and begin eating what you would eat if you were at home. Try to stick with high protein foods and healthy vegetables if they are available. Drink water. These are easy things to do if you’re awake and paying attention.
  2. Behaving too childlike. Family stories can very quickly trigger old emotions. If you find yourself behaving too “childlike”, you are almost certainly being triggered by old emotions. If you’re awake and paying attention you will see what you’re doing and stop. You’ll avoid saying or doing those things that will be embarrassing to you a week later.
  3. Rehashing old issues or arguments. This is probably one of the most common experiences many people have over the holidays. Remember, your primitive ego loves to have a strong self-identity so it’s easy to begin defending your beliefs and “who you are” when siblings or family members bring up old issues. Take a deep breath and don’t go there. If you need to, go for a short walk to reset. Simply staying awake is the best way to help you avoid this common holiday trap.
  4. Talking too much or withdrawing. When we are anxious or experiencing emotional discomfort it is common to cover our feelings by talking too much, or it’s opposite, withdrawing emotionally. These are simple behaviors to change if we are aware and paying attention to how we’re feeling and behaving. Just pull out your active listening skills and start asking questions. Let others do the talking while you do the work of building a better relationship with them by listening and being interested in their life.
  5. Getting caught up in your emotional “life story”. This is one of the more subtle and common things we do when old emotions are being triggered. Beneath our conscious awareness we begin to ruminate about our emotional “life story” and how awful it feels. When our unconscious thoughtsbegin to strengthen our “self” story feelings it’s not long before we’re on an emotional roll.We can’t talk about our “emotional story” directly so we unconsciously begin talking negatively about just about everything we can think of….how awful the world is, the economy, politics, religion, and especially the financial markets and unemployment.If you’re awake and paying attention you can easily switch your comments and begin talking about what’s positive and good in the world. What you appreciate about your family.

It’s normal and common to have holiday stress and “knee-jerk emotional responses when family is around us during the holidays. In fact, because most people are unconscious and unaware, it’s actually a relatively rare person who doesn’t get unconsciously triggered in that kind of environment.

If you are awake and paying attention, not only will you personally have more fun celebrating the holidays, you will be able to gently help others when their emotions are being unconsciously triggered. You can quietly help them change the subject, or encourage them to take a walk with you. And most importantly, when you are awake and conscious you can choose to share only stories about family members that are loving, kind and affirming.

When you choose to stay awake and conscious, you can be the one bringing the light of joy and compassion into the gathering.

Have a great holiday season.


PS.  Don’t forget you can have a compilation of the recordings from previous quarters for listening in your mp3 player in your car, while exercising or just relaxing.Purchase and instantly download them here.

PSS.Check out the video we developed and posted this past week. It is about “The Hawk in Buckskin Canyon”, a personal story of one of our hikes in this special wilderness area.

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