It is so easy to get triggered when home for the holidays.
Since the last time we were home, it’s likely that plenty of new things have happened—for example, maybe we’ve met a new partner, found a new group to hang with, or we’re questioning our identity, faith, or life path. We are in fact a new person, and it’s important to honor that growth—but coming home for the holidays is like the Self-Growth Olympics. It can be extremely challenging to keep our “new selves” intact when placed in the environments that created our old ones.
So here’s what we can do to not just get through the challenges, but grow through them:
1. Be kind to ourselves.
Going home for the holidays can be hard. Everyone, even well-established adults, struggle with feeling like their younger selves when around family. This is why it’s the premise of so many mediocre movies! It’s fun to watch the drama, but not so fun to experience it.
Home is the place where most of our limiting beliefs were created—it is only natural that they come up when we are back in this old environment. So we have to be patient with ourselves. No one transforms overnight, and even if a lot has changed, old wounds run deep. If we find ourselves reverting to old patterns, we can own it—to ourselves, and others, if necessary. We can take responsibility, but be kind to ourselves as we do it. Beating ourselves up will get us nowhere.
2. Speak our truth.
This is a biggy and a toughy. The goal is to speak what’s true for us to the best of our ability, even if it makes others upset. The truth is: what is theirs is theirs, what is ours is ours. We can speak with integrity about what is true for us now, and it is their responsibility to handle their reaction.
Even if it causes a tiff, it is important to make space for our new selves in the old environment as much as we can. Because if it doesn’t feel like there is room for this new version of us here, we will feel like we need to revert any time we return. So let’s take the plunge! And own our truth, own our growth to the best of our ability.
Note: there are times when it feels wiser to keep our growth to ourselves—say, for instance, our sexual identity has changed and we’re not yet ready to come out to our families. This is perfectly okay—we can trust our inner guidance and discernment—we’ll know when the time is right.
3. “That’s theirs.”
This energy tool is a game changer. Whenever someone says or does something that feels uncomfortable, intrusive, or doesn’t vibe with us, we can send all of that energy back into them. To do so, we visualize whatever they just put out into the space doing a U-turn and going back into their body, while saying to ourselves, “That is theirs.” Because it is. Regardless of what they said or did—if it doesn’t vibe, send it back. This makes sure we don’t take on other people’s energies, expectations, and bullsh*t, keeping our boundaries firm and our energy clean.
4. Who or what do we need? Then imagine them there.
Who or what would we need to be there in the room to get through the event with integrity and our new selves intact? Is it a trusted friend? A therapist? A deity? An ancestor? A wall between us and an unpleasant relative? We can imagine anyone or anything that would help us feel more safe or comfortable, and imagine it there in moments of need.
I once visualized my beloved coach and mentor in the room with me when I was in conflict with an ex-partner, and could automatically feel my body relax and my breath deepen. I felt safe, and was then able to handle the situation with less fear and more wisdom on board.
So who do we need to be there to support us? Even if they can’t be there physically, they can be there in spirit. We can call them in and use them as a resource.
5. Notice when we’re triggered and allow the emotions to come up.
Okay, so in all likelihood there will come a time this season when our emotions will get the best of us and old patterns will come to the surface. Here’s what we can do to work with them in the moment:
>> Pause. Take a second to notice what is going on inside.
>> Name it to ourselves. What emotion is coming up? How are we feeling?
>> Show the emotion some compassion. This emotion or pattern is coming up for a reason. If it wasn’t called for in the situation, it wouldn’t be coming up. Let’s make it right, not wrong. It is wise and here to serve our best interest and safety.
>> What does this emotion or part of us need right now? We can tune in and see what it needs—a hug, a hand on the heart? Do that in the moment.
>> Revisit the situation. Having named and understood what’s going on—rather than pushing it away or ignoring it—how do we feel toward the original situation? Can we regard it with more wisdom, patience, and understanding? Is more of our current self present?
6. Take time-outs.
To stay with our new selves and not get sucked into old patterns, it’s important that we create time for ourselves to decompress. Whenever we need, we can go get some quiet to reconnect with ourselves, ground, and feel our bodies.
Some ideas for doing so:
>> Going for a walk by ourselves, feeling our feet on the ground.
>> Laying on something and noticing the weight of gravity. We can simply notice how Mother Earth literally has our backs and is always supporting us.
>> Journal. Taking some time to process how we’re feeling. Stream-of-consciousness writing can be helpful to clear strong emotion.
>> Meditate. Noticing the breath, or noticing the body. Using a guided meditation can be helpful if we need the structure and support.
>> Gratitude. Making a list of what we’re thankful for in this moment.
7. Get perspective.
If all else fails, we can think of all the other people going through what we’re going through (and there are plenty of them). With 7.5 billion people on this earth, we can take comfort in the fact that we are certainly not alone in what we are feeling or experiencing. No, we’re not all in the same place, but none of us are alone in our suffering.
Another option is to visualize what this challenging situation looks like from another planet, or from the farthest star in the universe. This is not to invalidate what’s happening, or to make it less significant. It’s to remind us that what’s happening isn’t everything, and there’s a whole world (or universe) of opportunity, awe, and connection around us.
‘Tis the season for family and self-reflection. Take care and take heart! Let’s see if they can be mutually beneficial—our time with family helping our self-reflection, and our self-reflection aiding our time with family. Always ask: “What if this circumstance was a tool for my growth?”