The holiday season is an excellent opportunity to learn about how our mental health relates to our personal and family relationships.
For simplicities’ sake, I’d say people tend to fall into three categories
1. They LOVE the holidays
2. They can go either way
3. They LOATHE the season and everything that comes with it.
During this time of the year, our quirks come out and our personality gets to be on full display. The good, the bad, the middle ground, and uncharted territory. For some, its family relationships, for others, it’s the consumerism of the season, for others it’s the spirit of giving and appreciation for life’s blessings, others loathe repeating old patterns of thinking and behaving that we haven’t changed. Smaller gatherings or large celebrations, either scenario can teach us about the state of our mental health.
Is there something you wish was different from your seasonal experience?
Maybe you want to start a new tradition?
Maybe you want to mix things up for your family celebration?
Maybe there’s someone or something to whom you’d like to express gratitude?
Maybe there’s someone to whom you’d like to patch things up with or ‘confront’ about something?
There’s magic in the air at this time of year. If we pass up the opportunity to make use of it, we’re missing the chance to connect to an infinite source of seasonal spirit.
I find that people are good at identifying stressful and bad experiences, but we’re not as good at seeing and enjoying the pleasant moments deep down in our soul.
Imagine how your experience could be different. Can you bring more joy into what you’re doing, can you cut off a possible dysfunctional relationship, can you give yourself a big hug or some gratitude?
If you find yourself in an awkward conversation, remember,
telling people what
isn’t helpful, and people don’t change when they’re told what to do.
Stressful communications with friends and family are common at this time of the year. A great way to address these is to set boundaries.
Let’s look at two kinds of boundaries.
1. Physical – if you don’t like the way someone is behaving or speaking to you then you can remove yourself from the situation. Remember, we almost always have the choice to move our bodies and leave bad conditions. If we do this, then we must take responsibility for the outcome that follows. We might find temporary loneliness or a sense of isolation; we might have to revisit the conversation down the road.
To build resilience, we must aim to be ok with the discomfort that comes with change and the unknown. Often change brings with it an unexpected gift that helps us practice new skills and build new relationships which lead to more agency in our lives.
2. Emotional – If we don’t like specific topics of conversation or how people are speaking to us, then we can say something about it. Here’s an example of how that might play out.
Parent says “You know Tom, I wish you’d get a job that’s more respectable.”
Tom says “I know you care about me, but I don’t want to have this conversation with you let’s find a better time to talk about it if you’d like.”
Remember we can’t change other people. If the person won’t ever change, say something like
“You won’t have this conversation, end of discussion.”
Ensure that you follow up when you ask someone to talk about it later.
I find that many of my childhood experiences bubble up when I’m in family gatherings. Awareness of how my past influences my present is valuable, but I must ensure I’m not hanging on to that past. I deal with my previous experiences in the present and address my conditioned behaviour today or when it arises. That’s my key to liberating myself from those unhelpful behaviour patterns.
Reflect on something that transpired over the past couple weeks.
What was one thing you enjoyed?
What was one thing you’d like to do differently?
Is there a boundary you’d like to set with friends or family moving forward?
What are some things that mess with your mental health over the holidays you’d like to improve?
Can you use this reflection so you can see how these patterns or experiences play out in other areas of your life?
Our families push our buttons because they’re the ones who put them there.
Friends and family are likely the most constant things in our lives, so we’re better off cultivating those relationships to thrive or to separate ourselves from the ones that cause us stress and discomfort.
It can be bloody annoying sometimes, but more often it is empowering. We have the power over ourselves and how we experience life.
STOP complaining, STOP blaming other people, places, and things for your problems, and decide to own your life and how you live it.
Here’s a link to a great article by CMHA Alberta – for taking care during the holidays. 8 Tips for mental wellness during the holidays