The holidays are here. With all the action and parties, it’s hard NOT to get caught up in the spirit. Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. There is a little something for everyone. Some people feel joyous and excited during this season and some feel grumpy and anxious. For some it’s so taxing that they avoid it altogether. For many of us, our experience is a blend of all of these things.
My personal experience of the holidays has always been a little traumatic and also exciting. As an extrovert, you can’t keep me away from a good party. As a sensitive, it’s hard to spend time around people who don’t SEE me and/or share my level of sensitivity. The first people who didn’t see me or share my sensitivity are the same people that I am “supposed” to gather with during the holiday season. Family.
For those of us who weren’t SEEN by our family of origin, we spend much of our lives learning to create both a healthy sense of self and the proper boundaries to walk comfortably in the world. Growing up in alcoholic, religious, emotionally shut down, poor, and broken families can create layers of trauma that we spend the rest of our lives healing. I bet that even if your family of origin was “healthy” you are engaged in some version of healing family patterning. It’s part of being human.
When the holidays come around they stir up not only the big party, but all of the emotional stuff about being in family and community. What do we do then?
From a seasonal perspective we just passed solstice, the balance between light and dark, and entered winter- the most internal time of the year. See if you can use the stillness and darkness of this time to listen to the deeper parts of your self. Allow rest to be an important part of your life and connect with the hidden aspects of existence. Slow down to feel the rhythms of the earth and mimic them in your own life.
Allow your self to make self care your priority. The expectations of this time can feel really overwhelming. There are things that we are supposed to do, required to do, and have choice to engage in. When it comes down to it, the holidays are supposed to be FUN. Identify the stressors, like being around brother Joey, and going to this or that in-laws house… or_____… and then limit your time spent in those situations. You might plan something that feels really nourishing before or after in order to balance out the strain. Perhaps you splurge on something enjoyable during this week or just spend some time with your self doing something for you.
Give but don’t give your self away. Your first relationship is with your self. Commit to nourishing that during this holiday season. Notice what causes anxiety or upset when planning your holiday. What stresses you out the most? What do you most look forward to? Identify where you feel really comfortable giving, and where you don’t. What is easy for you? Showing up, conversation? Cooking or doing the dishes? Going to an event? Playing with the kids? Attending a small brunch or a big party? Limit the activities that feel like you are doing for others, and try to engage in some activities that FEED YOU.
Surround your self with people who SEE you. Depending on your plans, you might spend time in a place where people don’t see you. To counteract this, can you squeeze in a coffee date with an old friend whom it feels good to be around? Can you get a walk in with that person who always feels easy and listens? Make plans to have a FaceTime or phone conversation with one of your lifeline buddies. If nothing else, you can take your self to coffee, tea, or for a walk with your journal or favorite book to get some quality time with the person who sees you the most. You.
Allow yourself to acknowledge dysfunction. Sensitives and people with dysfunction in their past are often used to making themselves small around others. We may have learned that our needs don’t matter. As we get healthier and take up more space, we learn to listen to what we need. Then we go “back” to our families and these boundaries can feel less clear. Acknowledging your needs (and boundaries) can be the difference between a depressed holiday season and an empowered one. Even recognizing to ourselves when others’ behavior is not ok can help us to keep it about them and not internalize their abuse, pain or drama.
Focusing on the self moves us from blame to healing. Growing up in an unhealthy situation involves an abnormal focus on other. Maybe a parent, the family, a church, a sibling, patriarchy; some expectation of obligation outside the self. We are taught that it is selfish to think of ourselves. The first step to healing these wounds is to look at the institutions and people that caused it. Then as we move into deeper healing, we learn to value the SELF and what the SELF needs, says, thinks, feels, and wants. Once you acknowledge your needs, then move into the very radical act of being willing to RECEIVE. After all, the entire universe is conspiring to give to you.
Last, remember that the healing process is a spiral. When we get triggered by old emotions and dysfunctional situations it’s easy to think that we haven’t really gotten very far in our healing path. In actuality though, healing and personal growth happen in a spiral- meaning that we get free and then come back around to deal with old stuff again. This is especially obvious during the holiday season. All the build up of this season and gathering and how happy and joyful its supposed to be… OY.
Above all, be gentle and patient with your self this season. Nourish the seed of innocence within you and take care of your own heart’s needs first.
Do you have a holiday healing story? I would love to hear it. Email me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org or add it in the comments below.
In love, light and health,