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  • Writer's pictureSophia Dunkin-Hubby

Holiday Self Care #3

Notebook with list of holiday obligations - work holiday party, Christmas eve caroling, cookie party at Aunt Jane's, and Christmas Day Star Wars Marathon.

The holidays are a frantic time for most of us. Although it's supposed to be joyful it's also often filled with stress, guilt, and anger. Self care is always important, but especially so at this time of year. This five part series will look at various ways we can take care of ourselves over the next five weeks. Today's post is about how to survive spending time with family.

So, on top of all the holiday joy we're supposed to be spreading with the decorating, the present buying and giving, and the meal hosting, we're also supposed to spend time with our families. And as joyous as that sounds in theory, the reality is often messy and stressful.

I love my family. We're very close. But even so, too much time with them and they start to grate on my nerves. All their quirks are annoying. My irritation makes me cranky and withdrawn. And then I feel guilty for not wanting to spend more time with them because it's the holidays.

Here are some strategies I use to deal with my family when it all becomes too much.

1. Figure out where your boundaries are

How much time with your family can you manage? One hour? Three? Twenty minutes? Or maybe you can handle short bursts, but need breaks. Do you have different boundaries with different family members? An hour with your Uncle John but four hours with Cousin Jen. Or maybe you have no problem with your own family, but your in-laws are another story. Do you have different boundaries depending on how you're feeling? If you're super stressed out from work your patience dries up in record time, but if you've had a few days to decompress you can sit through a whole afternoon. Identifying your limits and the factors that play into them will give you something concrete to deal with.

2. Consider discussing those boundaries with your family

If you are able to figure out where your limits are around spending time with family, consider discussing it with them. This may be a scary prospect, but hear me out. Sharing with your family that you have trouble sitting through a four hour meal, or the annual Star Wars marathon, may initially hurt their feelings, but you may find that you're not the only one. You may also find that they would happily make an adjustment, or excuse you from part of the event if it would make you more comfortable. They may even be open to an entirely different suggestion - eating at a restaurant instead of cooking at home, going to a movie instead of sitting through three at home, or giving everyone some down time in the middle of the day rather than spending the whole day together. Not all families will be this open and supportive. There will definitely be some that expect you to suck it up and participate because it's only once a year and everyone else can so why can't you. If you have an open and supportive family you may find that you're able to make adjustments so everyone can enjoy the holidays. And if you know that you don't, I suggest that you-

3. Decide what you can handle and do only that

If dessert is all you can handle with one side of the family, only show up for that. Sit out the movie marathon. Make other plans on the day and drop by on a different one for a cup of tea and cookies. It might sound radical, but if you're dealing with people who can't see why you can't just suck it up you don't need to waste your breathe explaining it to them. Nor, in my opinion, do they deserve more of your time than you can stand to give. It's your holiday too.

4. Breathe and take breaks

If you find yourself getting irritated or stressed out while with family, check to see if you're holding your breath, or breathing shallowly. Taking a full breath will help clear your head. You can also take breaks. Go outside for 5 minutes for a "phone call", or find a quiet part of the house where you can sit by yourself for a few minutes. The bathroom is always a good place to get some quiet, private time. And if your family asks why you're running to the bathroom every thirty minutes tell them you've been drinking lots of water.

5. Reward yourself

Schedule something for yourself after you spend time with your family so you have something to look forward to.

And lastly

6. Cut yourself and everyone around you some slack.

Because it's the holidays and no one's perfect.

Photo by Sophia Dunkin-Hubby

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