“Stress can be caused by those closest to us which can feel difficult to escape at times but learning how to manage its impact is possible.” - Karen L.
The holidays can be a joyful time, yet also a time filled with stress and coping with family dynamics and being out of our usual routines. It can take some time in the new year to settle back into your usual self, and in this post, we’ll explore ways to recover from the highs and lows of the holiday season and get back on the right track.
Coping with Family Stress
Family dynamics can be complex and stressful. We all experience different levels of stress around the holiday season and one of the biggest challenges often surrounds family dynamics. It can cause a huge disruption to our internal and external experiences. Family stress can show up in many aspects, including illness, emotional distress, unspoken obligations, life transitions, arguments, and disappointment. Coping with your family stress begins with protecting your inner peace and overall mental wellness so it is important to ensure that you are not experiencing any sort of mental, emotional and physical burnout.
To recover from any holiday stressors with family, remember these helpful tips:
Acknowledge your feelings. It's okay to have mixed emotions about spending time with family members you may have a strained relationship with. Your feelings are there to help you recognize different distressing states within your body. Make sure you are holding space for all of your feelings, even after the visit is over.
Remember your worth and demonstrate acts of self-love. If comments and judgments loved ones made with you are still sitting with you post-holiday, keep in mind that the only opinion that matters is your own. Make a list of self-affirmations that you can pull from to dismiss the negativity and validate yourself.
Lean on your support network and the relationships that are safe and lift you up. Express what you’re feeling to others and explore ways to effectively communicate your boundaries to family in the future.
After a busy holiday season, it can be helpful to reclaim space and energy for yourself by setting boundaries with others around what you’re willing to do or commit to. It’s important to recognize that setting boundaries for yourself is not selfish. Anything that can potentially set you off course on your personal goals and development as a person signals a time to reflect on reevaluating what boundaries may need to be set for you. This may mean revisiting hard conversations with family members or creating an open line of communication through expressing concerns openly and honestly. You deepen your relationships by those closest to you by asking questions. No matter how difficult things may seem, you have a choice on how to respond to significant stressors. Feel free to remove yourself from a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. It can be so helpful when you communicate your needs to your family and you model a new way of communicating with each other. Pay attention to nonverbal signals.
Growing in a space that feels uncomfortable can begin with setting a new expectation for yourself and having that be reflective in your environment. Keep your standards high to what you deserve them to look and feel like when in the company of family. We all have the tendency to become complacent in what makes us comfortable. But when stepping outside of that and redefining what needs to change for the betterment of your own growth and sense of self, everything transforms along with them.
It also takes some courage to sit with yourself and examine what is no longer serving you. The hardest choices in life are sometimes walking away from people and things that are causing the most harm to your personal development and overall wellness. The new year can be a poignant time to reflect on the relationships and elements of your life that are helping you towards your goals versus holding you back.
Finding Balance and Routine
Finding your balance and routine after the holidays can have its own adjustment period. For some, getting back to a routine can be an instant process but for others, it can be a bit more of a challenge. We’re human, and falling short in maintaining or rediscovering what balance is, is an opportunity to explore it. This is a great time to take a step back and make this an integrative process in looking at every aspect of your life. Reevaluate your existing routine or what you want your routine to look like. Examine your habits, healthy and unhealthy, that can affect your lifestyle and everyday functioning.
Set Realistic Goals
One of the best ways in figuring how to make sense of your routine and realigning yourself is setting measurable goals that are realistic and tangible. You are putting yourself in a position to integrate everything you do to allow each aspect of life to reflect on each other. Don’t compete with yourself but make this a collaborative process with yourself. It is important to ensure that these goals are within your control in identifying what you can do within your means.
To establish measurable goals, look at your hierarchy of needs to make it much simpler to break them down into smaller steps and build on as you go. Reflect on prioritizing yourself, things that bring you joy, solace, or growth, to name a few. The beauty about breaking things down into smaller steps is that you can be more intentional. Take these factors under consideration when you’re evaluating and organizing your goals:
Do I need to set dates and times for my goal?
When looking at my schedule, am I identifying where I’m able to prioritize this step towards meeting my goal?
Consider personal limitations - financial, physical, etc.
What do I want to achieve?
Keep in mind that you can always circle back to each of your steps at any time if you need to revisit your own plan of action or chart a new course of steps.
Example: Going to the spa once a month
P: I want to go to the spa once a month but I'm not sure if I can fit it in my schedule.
P: Well, I noticed there’s a few dates open for me per month that I can be consistent in and commit to.
P: Let me just make a few adjustments to the time and I think I can make this a habit that won’t conflict with my other obligations.
As simplistic as this example was, that’s how proactive we can be around our goals and our commitment to them. Even when you’re running into challenges, remember this promise you’re making to yourself. Don’t shelf yourself. Take care of your own wellness and ensure that you are getting enough sleep, nutrition, rest and exercise throughout the process.
Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Self-care is paramount to all things, yet looks different and is unique to everyone. Make sure that you are not doing a disservice to yourself which oftentimes can catch up to us in surprising times. Self-care means taking more time out to incorporate things you enjoy and taking care of your overall wellness. The benefits in doing so can be a reduction in stress, relieving distressing emotions and thoughts, anxiety, and improving self-esteem, emotional and physical health.
Self-care begins with you and can translate into different areas of your life. Take a closer look at your own needs by simply checking in with yourself throughout the day. Identify the way you want to feel and what steps you need to take to get there. By doing this, it can shift your focus and change your posture in allowing your mindset to work for you, not against you. The key in maximizing how well you are showing up for yourself is connecting with your feelings, understanding your emotions, and your thoughts and behavior patterns.
Here are a few questions to consider:
How am I holding space for myself and my needs?
What have I been neglecting that I need to be more attentive to?
How much of my time do I give others and things and not enough towards myself?
What does showing up for me look like?
How often during the week do I prioritize myself?
In what ways can I give back to myself in my downtime?
What are some hobbies or interests that bring me joy?
These questions can quite often deepen your thought-process to think more reflectively and clearly. Self-care can also be met with resistance simply due to the unfamiliarity of putting you first or not knowing where to begin. So this even heightens the need to take a closer look to examine how much permission you give yourself to experience all of you. Equally important, you can strengthen the relationships around you by modeling how you need to be towards yourself.
Cultivate an environment that facilitates growth, change and openness and nurtures your physical and mental health. Another instrumental way to achieve this is through the practices of Mindfulness. Mindfulness reorients the mind to ultimately bring oneself back to the present within one’s environment, which can be much needed after a season of holiday madness.
Utilizing mindfulness creates a connection within yourself that can act as a refuge from the unknowable future, relinquishing control from what was and focus on what is. Mindfulness reflects being intentional with the time you carve out and prioritize. Acknowledge all that comes in this space: emotionally, somatically, and mentally. You will increase your own sense of self awareness by creating more time dedicated to self-love and growth.
What am I experiencing within my internal body?
What am I feeling outwardly?
What thoughts are coming up for me in this space?
Dedicate a few minutes each day to check in with yourself to ensure you are meeting your personal needs and modeling healthy coping skills to help decompress. Some examples of this include deep breathing, grounding techniques, and distress tolerance skills. When creating more space daily to connect with your mind and body, you’re essentially building a sustainably healthier relationship with yourself. You will soon see how it begins to translate into every aspect of your daily functioning- occupationally, socially, emotionally, and psychologically. Remember that your future self will thank you for making time for you.