Ahh the holidays! Makes us think of hot cocoa, sweet music, presents, snow, and STRESS!

Cooking and slaving. Lights and expectations. Family and tension.

It’s no wonder that therapists and holistic healers experience a spike in the amount of bookings as they near the holiday season. Sometimes people need extra massages, coaching, and therapy sessions just to help them survive their family reunions.

Well, they are on the right track. There are many things we can do to help ourselves “Survive the Holidays” .

Here is your “good list” of holiday tools for all the “naughty encounters” you need to prepare for!

1) Allow yourself to “indulge” – and set a time limit for it!

Have no guilt when you dig into your second plate, bite into that cake, or drink five cups of hot cocoa in one night while binging on an old TV show. This is YOUR time. Hibernate on that old couch in your onesie while holding Mr. teddy bear tight, and feel no shame about your wild birdsnest hair.

2) Think of it as a “vacation”!

It’s called a “holiday” afterall, but you’d be surprised how many people forget. This is your time to reward yourself for all your hard work, so put that laptop away and keep your work calls to a minimum. It doesn’t mean we have to forget about running our business, but it does mean we can trim down our busy tree in order to fully be present.

3) Be realistic, don’t expect an “Ideal”

“Ideal Holiday” “Ideal Family” “Ideal Meal” “Ideal Present” – those are ideal ways to set yourself up for unrealistic expectations. Instead, remember that nothing is perfect. Or, as I like to say, perfection lies in imperfections.

4) Take time for yourself

Retreat AWAY from all the commotion. Whether it’s a large gathering, endless holiday shopping, or constant Christmas tunes about santa on the radio- it can get to be a bit much. If you find yourself getting annoyed at other people or getting a headache- do yourself and everyone else a favor and EXCUSE yourself politely to gather your bearings. It’s HEALTHY to take time for yourself. As much as we at Breaking Taboo love advocating conversations, sometimes, silence is golden.

Which brings us to:

5) Who cares what everyone else thinks?

I get it, you haven’t seen your parents in a year, your grandparents in three, and your uncle in five. Everyone’s coming to the reunion and everyone’s got an opinion FOR you, and, ABOUT you. Maybe you’re bringing someone you love home and are worried about everyone else’s reactions. FORGET what everyone else thinks. Everyone deserves to be happy, but no one deserves it at anyone else’s expense, including yours.

6) Control what you can and let the rest go.

Functioning in a healthy way in the face of DYSFUNCTION means not handing over your emotions to anyone else. If someone is behaving in a way that is inappropriate, know that the behavior is their choice, and you have a choice as to how to respond.

You may need to “be the bigger person” for the time being, and then choose a later time to have a real conversation with this person about what is REALLY going on. Use conversation as a stepping stone to understand one another and create change. Getting through something together is always better than harboring resentment. Or, you just might choose to let this one go, especially if you only interact with this person once a year.

7) You don’t have to let fights happen, and, fights CAN happen- and that’s OK.

When people get cooped up in tight spaces for a long period of time, they can get on each other’s nerves. Sometimes a “long time” is a week or a day, sometimes it only takes an hour before mom and dad are berating your life choices or your brother’s got mixed feelings about your relationships, and wham- it’s another screaming frenzy. Hey, look at it this way, sometimes letting emotions out at least beats awkward silence.

Another form of fighting is not fighting at all. Maybe it IS silence that is used as a form of attack. Passive aggression is still aggression, it’s just using passiveness as the tool to attack.

People fight for things that they think are worth fighting for. It shows that they care. Often, what is hiding behind any kind of aggression is fear. It’s YOUR choice, but you do have an option of listening and finding out what is REALLY going on. Sometimes, the reason might be different than what you think.

8) Break free of roles

A strange thing happens, getting together with family can slip even the BEST of us back into the old roles that were given to us since childhood. Sometimes, when adults get thrown back into family dynamics- they start becoming the kid they used to be.

Slipping back into old social patterns can easily make one slip back into old habits and old thoughts. The good news is, You do not have to be TRAPPED by familiarity.

Remember, you are NOT the same person as you were five, ten, twenty, thirty years ago- and neither are the other people in your family. It’s easy to slide back into roles like “youngest baby” “Care-taker”, “black sheep”, “responsible one”, “The one who never has their -bleep- together”, but the fact is, these are all roles that you used to play in a family, way back when you still lived with that family every day.

The beautiful thing about growing up, is, well, growing up!

9) This is today, not yesterday.

Reuniting can make us be who we WERE instead of who we ARE. People tend to jump backwards, into a very old, tired story in which everyone plays the same characters but no one really wants to play them anymore.

Keep in mind that everyone has grown and changed. Try to “See” and threat them as the person they have become, not who they were in your memory of them, and you will get the same respect in return. The truth is, they’ve probably worked hard to become the person they are today, and you would be helping them just as much as you’d be helping yourself to recognize what’s in front of you, rather than what you have remember from their past.

Nothing stays the same, so don’t treat it as such, don’t resist change that is inevitable. Show respect for your family members as individuals, not just as the roles YOU have given them. Sometimes we need to stop treating our “little sister” as a “LITTLE sister”, and stop treating our mother and fathers like our protectors that we still need constant approval from.

This is something as simple as shifting your perception. Try it out. If you want to get the ball rolling, set a good example in yourself. Even if you can’t manage to see how THEY have changed, have confidence in that fact that YOU have.

10. Boundaries, boundaries. Just say no.

You don’t have to agree with everything everyone says just to take on the responsibility of keeping peace. You don’t have to give into every request just because you feel a sense of obligation. Healthy individuals are able to say no just as much as they are able to say yes.

I’m not saying to completely ignore your duties as a guest or family member and leave everything on the table for mom to clean up because you would rather go play video games, no. That aint cool. That was you as a seven year old, not who you’d want to be now. But you are allowed to say, for example, “no thank you. I appreciate the invitation but I need to stay in and take care of myself after my flight”. You should never feel like you need to drop EVERYTHING you need to do in order to do EVERYTHING for others.

Setting boundaries is another way of showing people that you respect yourself, and others will respect you for it.

11. It’s ok to ask for help

Here at breaking taboo we encourage people to let go of the stigma of asking for help. We don’t mean that in the way of fostering dependency, but rather we mean that in the way of being strong enough to let your pride go, and ask people who can help you with things that you don’t need to take on by yourself.

This includes: cooking, decorating, invitations, organizing, decision making, shopping, gift wrapping, taking care of guests, or any task that would make it less stressful on you.

Try it. You might be surprised to see that people actually love to help. Think of it as an opportunity to allow them to feel useful, and an opportunity to take stress away from you. Afterall, the more stressed you are, the less PRESENT you can be.

12. Tis the season to be jolly

No matter how you celebrate the last month of the year, keep in mind that it is about celebrating. It’s about being thankful for happiness, for the things and people who are apart of your happiness. It’s about allowing yourself to appreciate the little things in life such as a warm fire, the smell of pine, a snowflake, the invention of chocolate.

Don’t get wrapped up in how holidays are supposed to be, or how your life or family SHOULD be. Instead, concentrate on all the joyful moments you have the privilege of experiencing, reflect on what you’re grateful for this entire year, and the BEAUTY of something as simple as having seasons.

Here’s a trick, if you ever feel yourself forgetting the joy:

Take that one thought, one memory, feeling, or anything- that makes you feel good- however small or large. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and concentrate on it with all your might. Let the thought ignite like a spark in your body, until it’s warmth fills you from head to toe and you find yourself smiling. There is no such thing as a bad emotion, but if you ever feel down for an extended amount of time and want to be present in the moment, use this trick as your secret magic tool. You can carry it around and summon it, whenever you need to.

It’s like wishing upon a star, but the wish is a feeling, and the star is you!

BONUS: If you are ALONE on the holidays:

Being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely. You are allowed to celebrate however you end up celebrating. If that means taking time away from the rest of the world so you can do things like hide in your favorite bookstore, seek solitude in the park, catch up on your TV shows, don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t. Connect with yourself, use some time of solitude to meditate, heal, be mindful and enjoy all the little things.
If you ARE wanting company, here are a few great ways to gain- and spread- some holiday cheer with others.

Volunteer! Holidays are about giving, so what better way than to give to your local charities? You can sign up for soup kitchens, work on a community project, help animals find a home at the shelter, visit the elderly in nursing homes, put a smile on children faces at the hospital, donate with your favorite organization. Whatever you do, you’ll bask in the warmth of knowing you did something good and help many people along the way. In fact, MY best valentines days were always the ones when I volunteered for the homeless.

Sign up for a class. Ever wanted to learn pottery making? Paint class? Ballroom dancing? Why not treat yourself and just sign up! You can set a new goal as something to look forward to for the new year.

You can also ask around to see if any friends or acquaintances might also be alone. For example, doing a simple post on facebook or emailing, asking if anyone wants to spend the holidays together might help somebody else too.

Why not send out greeting cards to people? Everyone loves a good cheer, and this is a wonderful gesture that might make many people feel appreciated.

 Finally, be thankful.

Remember that just as the purpose of thanksgiving is actually about thanks- and giving- , and so is the purpose of many other holidays. This is a chance for you to celebrate in whatever way makes you most happy, whether it’s friends, family, that special someone, or if that special someone is yourself.

Happy Holidays!

Click here to watch our How To Survive the Holidays video!

~Serena Sun

Founder, Breaking Taboo