Today I’m talking about the five ways your family is likely going to drive you crazy this holiday season along with my top five tips for battling back so you can have a joyful, sane and connecting holiday season. And the best news? I’m not going to tell you that you have to be grateful or appreciate anyone!
Here are some things I think you might hear (that’ll drive you crazy) this holiday season:
- The pushy: “When are you two going to give us some grandbabies?”
- The political: “I still think Trump did a great job!”
- The shaming: “Are you really going to have a second helping?”
- The competitive: “You started working out? That’s great. I just finished another triathlon; I just have to work out to feel sane!”
- The dismissive: “How’s it going with that job of yours? What is it you do again?”
- The passive aggressive: “I wish I didn’t care how I looked in my clothes like you.”
Or maybe they’re driving you crazy because you find yourself repeating or explaining things over and over because they don’t seem to listen to a word you say.
Or maybe you’re just not feeling the energy to be patient, loving and kind and the idea of “faking it” makes you throw up in your mouth a little, especially knowing your uncle is going to tell those racist, inappropriate jokes at dinner?
It’s amazing how you can love someone so much but also feel blinding rage, isn’t it? It’s because, as you know, the opposite of love isn’t hate – it’s indifference. On some crazy level, it’s proof of our love for our family that we have secret thoughts of murdering them in their sleep.
With COVID still happening, this holiday season is really going to be one for the record books so here are the top five reasons why your family might drive you crazy these next two months and my top five tips moving past them.
1. You become a kid again and act like one!
Family has known us longer than anyone. It’s where we started. However, our family doesn’t necessarily know us better than anyone, they just think they do. Depending on how old you are, you may have lived away from your family of origin for a bit. You’ve built a life of your own with likes, dislikes, new friends and new thoughts.
I remember once when I’d gone home for Thanksgiving when I was about 25. My mother had made a green bean casserole, complete with cream of mushroom soup and some crunchy onions from a can on top. When she tried to heap some on my plate and I refused she said, “But this is your favorite! I made it special for you!” When I tried to explain that I hadn’t eaten anything like that in probably eight years she told me I was crazy and that I’d loved it last year when she’d made it, even though I hadn’t been back to their home for the holidays in a number of years.
So, we end up being treated on some level as we were when we were younger and, much to our own dismay, we start acting like we did when we were much younger! You’ll find yourself in a fourth-grade type fight with your younger brother and whining like a teenager to your mom.
If you add to all this sleeping in your old bed under a now-tattered NSYNC poster, you can see why you find yourself yelling at your sister to get out of the bathroom already.
These were our very first relationships and they molded us, for better or worse, and it’s easy to get pulled back into old habits and patterns.
Tip: Set Intention A Lot!
I talk about setting intention a lot! I talk about it so much because it’s seriously a game changer! If you want to feel happy and whole this holiday season, you’ve got to set intention and you’ve got to do it often (what I call Intention Chunking).
Our expectations have a powerful effect on how we experience a situation. One of the reasons setting intention works so well is that we humans have something called a confirmation bias. Basically, we like to prove ourselves right. So, if you think that this Thanksgiving is going to be even worse than the last, that’s exactly what will happen because you’ll act in accordance with your belief that there’s going to be a shit show and you’ll look for ways that’s true.
In addition, your reticular activating system (RAS for short) will look for evidence of what you believe and highlight it while filtering out anything that doesn’t match your beliefs. So, when Uncle Bill says something appreciative, instead of snarky, you won’t even notice it.
Set your intention early and often and make sure that you’re the dominant vibration in the room.
2. It’s Easier Than Ever to Get Triggered
The holidays are also a time of a change in your routine, which creates more stress and makes it easier to be triggered. If you do travel somewhere, you’re sleeping in a bed that’s not yours, you might be in a different time zone and there’s a general disruption of your usual way of doing things.
Then you’ve got the planning, preparing and “all the things” that go along with planning holiday dinners and events. When you layer the stress of COVID on top of this, you can see why you’re going to be way more stressed than normal.
When you’re in a more stressful state, you have less emotional regulation, which means you’re going to be more reactive to situations than you’d normally be. So, when your mom says, “Do you think it’s a good idea to have another glass of wine? Do you usually drink like that in front of the kids?” you might not be able to find your calm, happy place and dismiss it so easily.
To deal with your upset, frustration and resentment, you might find yourself drinking or eating more, which makes you feel worse about yourself, which will then make you more defensive and reactive! It can be a very nasty cycle.
Tip: Be Prepared Mentally and Physically!
To mentally be prepared you’ve got to keep your standards high and your expectations low. This means you’ve got to be aware of what you will and won’t tolerate before you engage with your family and lovingly remind people of your standard when it’s not met. All the while, keep your expectations low because no one can meet them all the time.
To physically prepare, you need to have an exit plan. This can include a variety of things such as:
- Having a friend on speed dial and an arrangement that they’ll be available to support you anytime on a particular day
- Telling your family that you need to leave at a certain time and getting out of there before things get messy
- Going for a walk if you’re feeling triggered
- Setting up a time to exercise each day
In the end, you’ve got to focus on being prepared by being mindful throughout the day or you’ll just be on autopilot the whole time and nothing will change. You’ve got to be in the here and now so you notice when you start to react so you can stop it!
3. You Feel Judged or Criticized:
When you feel like others are judging or criticizing you, instead of being angry at them, turn your attention inward. Why are you taking this to heart? The only reason things bother us is because we believe them at a deeper level.
If you’re a 5’2” woman and someone walked up to you and criticized how tall you were, you’d practically laugh at them. If they went on and on about your Amazonian stature, you’d think they were nuts. It wouldn’t hurt your feelings. You wouldn’t feel criticized and you would think it was about them, not you.
Now, if you were that same 5’2” woman and you weighed 200 pounds and someone came up to you and talked about how fat you were and went on and on about how you should lose weight, you’d likely be embarrassed and feel shame. Because, you would likely agree with this person. You’d think it was about you, not them.
When someone in your family judges or criticizes you, it’s the same. If they judge your job, parenting, or anything else, it’ll only get to you if some part of you thinks they’re right. So, your work is to build your own self-esteem and confidence. Your job is to NOT get triggered into fear-based feelings, but to stay in that clear-headed, loving state.
Louise Hay said, “You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
Tip: Ground Yourself
When we’re feeling judged or criticized, a part of your brain called your amygdala is activated which puts you into fight, flight or freeze mode and turns off the rational, loving part of your brain. The best way to counteract this is to do a Grounding Exercise, which will help ground you into the present moment where you can act, not react. Scroll down and enter your name and email to receive my Grounding Exercises!
4. They Don’t Listen to You:
It’s SO very frustrating when others won’t listen to us. Maybe you’ve told your dad five times what you do at your job at Google, but he still asks you every time he sees you, “What is it that you do again?” You want to pull your hair out and you’re so tired of having the same conversation over and over again. You walk away feeling belittled, frustrated and resentful.
Tip: Use the I Feel Formula
The best thing to do here is use the I Feel Formula. The formula is this:
and I need_______________________________.
Here are the instructions:
- You must say an actual feeling after “I feel.” It can’t be “I feel that you should…”
- Be very brief and specific with the “when you” portion. Don’t get long-winded or list 50 things the other person does that bugs you.
- You won’t always know what you need, so it’s OK to leave that part off if you can’t think of anything.
- The other person might come back at you with something nasty or try to pull you into an argument. Just stick to the formula.
5. They Ask for Too Much/Guilt You
It’s not uncommon for family members or friends to ask you for more than you want to give and/or make you feel guilty. This is definitely one of those times that you’ve got to repeat Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous line to yourself: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Feeling guilty is all about you. No one can “make” you feel anything. Believe it or not, it’s a choice. And no one can “make you do more than you want.” Again, it’s a choice.
The one and only thing you need to focus on in these instances is your boundaries. Decide what you will and won’t do and end it there.
Let go of the idea that your mom, partner, brother or uncle needs to act a certain way. You can’t control them; you can only control you. This means you can’t be attached to their outcome, only your own.
Be in loving detachment as much as possible. Boundary setting needs to come from love, not from frustration, anger or helplessness. Boundaries come from raised self-esteem, empowerment and confidence. Be loving as you draw your boundaries and lovingly detached from the other person’s reactions. People don’t “come around” because they’re forced. They might act differently, but the underlying issue isn’t solved.
Be consistent, no matter what. Don’t threaten or warn. Just say what’s what for you and then follow through with action. Focus on your behavior not your words. Stop talking and start doing. Let your actions speak for themselves. You can tell people your new boundary, but then let your actions do the talking after that. There’s no need to nag or be frustrated. If you’ve set a boundary that you won’t take personal calls at work and your sister keeps calls with emergency dinner questions, don’t be upset: “I told him/her not to call during the day!” Just stop answering the phone.
Self-awareness is key. If you’re not in your moments, you won’t know if someone is crossing a line or not. You need to get off autopilot and get into the here and now.
Even if you miss a boundary crossing/violation – you can ALWAYS come back later and say something. Also, just because something has been going on a long time, doesn’t mean you can’t change the rules or ask for what you need now.