The holidays can be a joyous, exciting, and fun time, but they can also be challenging and a true test of patience, ego, and individuation. One of my favorite quotes by Ram Dass sums this up nicely:
"If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family."
You may have been practicing yoga for years, have a daily breath practice, keep a gratitude journal, carry crystals in your pockets everywhere you go, and bathe your house in essential oils and smudge sticks galore, and all of this cannot guarantee that you will not completely lose it when challenged by difficult family members.
Setting your intentions in preparation for a family visit is key in helping you stay grounded and calm.
This is all about identifying values, creating goals, and using coping skills when things get sticky. Try to make this a special time of ritual, reflection, and brainstorming.
Start with a 5 to 10-minute breathing exercise, such as:
- Box Breath: Inhale slowly for the count of 5. Hold breath in for the count of 5. Exhale slowly for the count of 5. Hold breath out for the count of 5. Complete 3-5 rounds.
- Langhana Breath: Inhale on the count of 4. Exhale on the count of 6. Complete three to five rounds. Inhale on the count of 5. Exhale on the count of 7. Complete three to five rounds. Inhale on the count of 6. Exhale on the count of 8. Complete three to five rounds.
Next, move on to an Intention Setting Breath by inhaling deeply and fully as you imagine that you are taking in something that you need. Pause. Exhale slowly as you imagine letting go of something that no longer serves you. Example: Breathing in compassion. Breathing out judgment. OR Breathing in strength. Breathing out fear. OR Breathing in confidence. Breathing out self-doubt. Repeat five to 10 rounds.
Whatever intention you land on during this breathing exercise (i.e., compassion, strength, confidence, love, authenticity, patience, integrity, etc.), use it in a Writing Exercise to clarify your values:
- Write your intention in a positive and affirmative statement.Example: “I am love.” OR “I am confident.” OR “I am authentic and true.”
- Make a list of your top five core values, including your intention. Consider your important beliefs, opinions, qualities or states of being, and interests. Describe why/how these values are important to you?
- Make a list of five coping skills, useful and effective tasks, or self-care activities that help you manage stress and reconnect to your values (i.e., taking a walk, breathing, listening to music, setting a boundary, etc.). Then, make a plan for how you will use these during your upcoming family visit.
Lastly, expect the best, but plan for the worst. You know your family best and can probably accurately expect certain snafus over the holidays. Therefore, consider the potential barriers that may get in the way of a smooth celebration and prepare to use the coping skills you identified above. And, just in case, think of an escape plan, or how you can appropriately excuse yourself from festivities if needed.
Above all, remember that the holidays are meant to be filled with love and celebration and make a commitment to do your best to uphold these ideals.
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