The Christmas and holiday period can powerfully magnify both the joys and the challenges of life, and our relationships.  

The joys can be wonderful – getting together with those we love, celebration, fun, gifts, spiritual communion, a break from the usual day-to-day, seeing through children’s magical eyes… and other delicious ingredients.

And the challenges can be overwhelming – extended periods with family, getting emotionally triggered, feeling the grief of lost or estranged loved ones and add your own ingredients here.

Top that with the icing of high expectations, financial pressure, peer pressure, alcohol, over-indulgences and add your own ingredients here…  and we might find our Christmas (or other holiday) experience and our relationships not tasting as sweet as we’d like – and might even find ourselves facing discontent, disharmony and conflict.

So what can we do to take care of – and enjoy – ourselves and our relationships, over our festive period? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start with taking good care of yourself. This doesn’t mean thinking only of yourself. It’s worth remembering that we’re more able to care for others in a healthy way when we’re meeting our own needs. 
  • Regularly ask yourself “What do I really need right now?” and tend to those needs as best you can. This could be as simple as needing a glass of water, spending some time alone, to stop eating, to go for a walk, or that you’d like to reach out to a particular friend.
  •  Pause to notice what’s happening in and around you as you go about your day and interactions. This sounds so obvious, but I know I need reminding of this often! It can be easy to lose ourselves in our relentlessly thinking minds, or in our relationships. Pause regularly, notice yourself, feel your body and your feet on the ground and come to all five senses, so you can be here, now, with yourself – and can therefore be more fully present with others, too.

Staying present and connected with ourselves also takes us out of our autopilot reactions, giving us more conscious choice in how we respond to others – which is especially important when we’re emotionally triggered and need to communicate as mindfully and kindly as we can. 

  • Decide what qualities you’d like to bring to your relationships – and give them to yourself first. Make qualities like compassion, kindness, forgiveness, generosity and curiosity your best friends when it comes to your connection with you – and watch how these qualities overflow into your ways of being with others. 

Relating to ourselves in a loving way gives us the foundation for turning up in a healthy way in all our relationships – in tricky moments, you’ll have your own back, and be less likely to need others to be a certain way for you to feel ok – and let’s face it, Uncle John is probably going to make those same judgemental comments again this year and the kids are likely to get super excited and too rowdy for your liking. What qualities do you want to support yourself with when that happens? And how might that influence how you interact with Uncle John and the kids?

  • Notice, and connect with, the many different parts of you. For example, last Christmas there was a part of me that was happy and excited about being with my loved ones, another part that was grieving for those who weren’t with me, a part that was grateful for all I had, another part that wished certain things were different, a part that wanted to socialise a lot and party, and another part that wanted plenty of rest and quiet time – to name just a few.

After identifying these (and other) parts, I acknowledged their validity, listening to what they had to say and being present with how they felt. Connecting with our different parts in this way means we embrace more of our whole selves. It can give us greater understanding of why we feel the way we feel, why we feel compelled to behave in particular ways, and can give us more conscious choice in how we turn up in our relationships – both with ourselves and with others. 

  • It’s also valuable to notice if there’s part of you making judgments about others. When we notice that it is a part of us that is doing that – and not the whole of us – we are less invested in seeing our judgments as facts, and we are more open to seeing the inherent goodness and qualities we appreciate in that person – which happens to create an atmosphere that makes it easier for them to share those qualities with us! And the same goes for the judgments we make about ourselves.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you found this helpful – and here’s wishing you a love and kindness-filled Christmas and December break!

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