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3 ways to stay sane this holiday

The holidays can be as tough as they are joyful, pandemic or not. Whilst the lead up to the big day itself can feel thrilling, spending a lot of time with family in the follow up is potentially quite draining, but it doesn't have to be. We all experience holiday anxiety in different ways, but I have grouped them into three main categories and, through methods inspired by yoga, I will offer you three simple solutions to those problems.

Number one: how to stay sane when a family member is driving you crazy

This is one we can all relate to; a member of your family, or a family friend, behaves in a way that irritates you, or perhaps has a personality that clashes with yours and says things to get a rise out of you. There are essentially three things you can do in this situation.

The easiest...

...and most destructive is to rise to their bait, whether they are consciously dangling it or not. To bite back might feel powerful, but it's the reaction that will deplete you the most, even if it feels the most readily available to you in a heightened situation.

The second easiest... to stand back and judge them and/or talk about them behind their back to another family member, thus creating separation between you and them (which is a drain to keep up).

The hardest...

...yet most healing, is to recognise that not only are they probably in some kind of emotional pain, but that emotional pain is icky enough to trigger a response in you, therefore highlighting something unresolved within you. There is a beautiful yogic practice of 'sending metta' to this person in this kind of situation. It comes from the traditionally Buddhist meditation technique of Metta Bhavana.

Try this guided meditation to develop genuine compassion for even the most challenging of people. Do it before your family event:

Number two: how to stay sane when you're eating and drinking twice as much around people who's company you enjoy half the amount

We all end up over-indulging at Christmas, which I don't believe in and of itself is the problem, but how we react to it is often what causes the most inner turmoil.

The easiest...

...and historically my go to... bingeing. As someone with a background of disordered eating, this was obviously my go-to, but I do hear from a lot of people that holidays which promote an excessive consumption of food are triggering for things they didn't even know were there. To give yourself a 'f@*k it' pass to just eat and drink as much as you can in 24 hours and restrict your food intake the following day is one approach you could take.

The second easiest... to avoid the food on display and create a false sense of control by restricting your consumption, or compensating by drinking a lot of alcohol, which can feel quite fancy, but often leads to later excess and further stress and anxiety.

The hardest...

...and this really is the hardest one for me in particular, but implicating it has lead to a much, much easier time in the long run. This method is basically interoceptive awareness, i.e. a body sensations check in before you do something. This can be as simple as sitting for 5 minutes and observing your breath and your bodily sensations, perhaps by placing your hands on any areas of the body displaying strong sensations and allowing yourself to feel and recognise them without judgement. This allows you to regulate your nervous system, which means you can approach potentially overwhelming environments from a much calmer place, which not only will help with emotional eating and drinking, but also with how you are able to communicate with others and how you are able to manage your response to things.

You can take this one step further by actually learning to befriend the difficult emotions that may initially cause you to move off-centre. Here is a meditation for you to try:

Number three: how to stay sane when you've actually gone in and had that argument

I remember my first family argument; it was pretty dire. I often wonder if I'm lucky to have only had a handful of these over my 31 years of life, or if I really am that dysfunctional? There's going to be an array of situations for all of us here and varying degrees of severity, but however you look at it, fighting amid the festivities is always going to be a nightmare, but it can be recovered.

The easiest... to leave, and I'm not talking a quick 10 minute walk to blow off steam, but actually to leave the party altogether and never return. This is undoubtedly the easiest in the moment because you get to take yourself out of the situation, but the only time that would be the right thing to do is if it's actually unsafe.

The second easiest...

...stay but don't talk to the person you fell out with. This (a bit like being in judgement from the first obstacle) might feel really strong to you, because you've created a sense of separation, but separation itself, as we know from our yoga practice, is just an illusion anyway, and we know that trying to maintain an illusion is the most draining thing of all.

The hardest...

...stay and make it right. This does not and probably won't happen immediately and that can be quite uncomfortable, but as we know from yoga, that the discomfort is often where the breakthrough happens. Trust that you actually have the skills to be quite vulnerable here! Set aside your armour and lead with the compassion you know you naturally have. Showing compassion even to someone who has really triggered you will help them soften too.

And if you're not quite there yet, do this anger exercise:

Merry Christmas!


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