Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Celebration Saboteurs? More Stress-Reducing Keys for the Holidays!

As the holiday celebrations continue over this month and into the next, let's remind ourselves about the two most common celebration saboteurs - our expectations and our losses.
  • Although expectations are a natural part of who we are and are an outgrowth of the norms of families, if we cling on to them too tightly, they can cause us to be uncompromising and unforgiving. Also, because of past unhealthy experiences within families, unrealistic expectations can lead to more disappointment, hurt, and further complicate family dynamics.  

This all causes stress!

Honor our losses in healing ways.
  • Secondly, whether memories surface of loved ones who have passed and whose presence is missed deeply, or there are reminders of relationships which remain unrepaired, or the emergence of personal or inner personal wounds are re-opened because of the triggers that accompany family gatherings, the profound and poignant presence of loss creates a stress that is deeply entwined in grief. 
The good news is - there are steps we can take to reduce holiday stress!  The hard part is....we have to be willing to make the changes!  I will share briefly a few keys for making change.  For more healing information, please take a listen to Got Holiday Stress?.

When tackling those naughty expectations, consider the following:

First, ask yourself - "Am I willing to re-adjust my expectations?"  Be honest!  If you are, great!  If  not, right now, make an attitude adjustment!  Let go of 'needing to have it one way - your way - or the right way! Be flexible.  Communicate your feelings, but then, be willing to compromise and go with the flow of the family's needs! (If there are hardships, please see below.) 

Secondly, if you are hosting over the holidays, clearly communicate what your expectations are and if there are any changes!  Make sure you do this with plenty of advance notice, giving others time to re-adjust their expectations!  

Thirdly, if there are other stressors or changes that your family is dealing with - expenses, hardships, travel, gifts - and you are finding that the rituals and traditions of your family are not working for you, communicate your needs to your family, again with plenty of advance notice. Honor your situation and circumstances so that resentment does not build.   

When confronting painful personal and inner personal losses, consider the following:

First, in dealing with the loss of a family member, it is important for family members to communicate their individual desires as well as the family's needs in honoring the passing of a loved one. Although this is extremely difficult to do, holding onto private expectations and then being hurt when those are not met intensifies your grief and compounds levels of stress.

Secondly, if you are a family dealing with estrangement issues, broken relationships, or division within your family, it is important to practice releasing what you cannot change and of letting go of the heavy weight of emotion that accompanies those dynamics. (For ways to release, please listen to Got Holiday Stress?) Do these releasing exercises well in advance of holiday gatherings.

Thirdly, the holidays can be reminders or triggers of past painful experiences and of personal as well as inner personal losses. Holidays are also times where individuals are at risk for relapse and/or regression into a myriad of unhealthy behaviors, again because of triggers.  It is critical to be aware of your triggers and how they impact you.  Then, implement the following exercise if you feel triggered, at risk, or unsafe.

1. Catch the thought and identify your feelings (connect them to the trigger).
2. Stop the thought and contain the feeling.
3. Calm yourself.  Breathe....slowly.  Inhale and exhale.  If need be, give yourself a short time out.  Leave the room - go to quiet place or go outside.  Relax.  Breathe.  Honor honor your feeling and release them. Return when you are ready.
4. Replace the thought with something positive and healing; and/or redirect your conversation or actions.
5. Reassert your present reality.  Work on staying in the present - focusing on what is now.  Remind yourself that you are safe...and you are strong.  Continue releasing any residual pain.

In closing, the holidays can indeed be a time of joy - 
if we choose to readjust our expectations and to release our losses in healthy and healing ways.
 And, it is our choice.  No one can do this for us.  We  must do it for ourselves. 
 It is time to let go of those celebration saboteurs and start rejoicing!!  

Start Rejoicing!

For more informative & restorative guidance, visit 
Holli Kenley 
Author Holli Kenley @ Amazon

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