There’s advice for over-imbibing, over-spending, over-reacting, over-dressing, and over-stepping this, that and every other boundary known to man.
The reality is you need just one tip for avoiding holiday stress.
Whether you dread sister-in-law Sue’s reaction to her Christmas gift, or Uncle Joe reaching for that fourth bottle of red, you can put your mind at ease with one step.
Nail this, and you’ll finally understand why you react the way you do, despite your best behavioral intentions on the car ride over to Mom and Dad’s for Thanksgiving dinner.
First it’s important to note that you’re likely unaware of the culprit causing you to lose your cool. I’ll give you a hint — it has to do with your unconscious mind…
As you pull into the driveway you pause and do one final mental scan before getting out of the car.
While you’re not feeling as cool, calm and collected as 10 minutes ago, you feel confident that your rational side will prevail, as you step into the foyer.
You take in the familiar smells, sights and sounds. Your heart races a little as you busily greet your loved ones.
Okay. I got this.
Feeling positive that this family gathering will be different, you allow yourself to relax and enjoy your favorite relatives.
Just when you think you’ll make it to the pumpkin pie unscathed, Boom!, you’re off and running. What started as a barb from your brother has devolved into a full-on verbal brawl.
Ugh! Not again — get me outta here!
On the drive home you’re sad, angry and disappointed. And then the worst emotion of all —which happens to be the one your family is best at drawing out of you — guilt, takes hold.
The good news is there’s a solution to the family drama and emotional pain.
It lies in your brain:
The amygdala is a set of small, almond-shaped clusters of nuclei near the base of your brain. These almond-shaped clusters are the most active when you experience fear or aggression, due to the fact that they are responsible for triggering the body’s fight or flight response.
When wp themes you’re around stressful family events it’s easy to become triggered by the past. The sensory stimulation alone can send you into panic mode. This “amygdala attack” causes you to revert back to adolescence.
But that was then. The beauty is you’re no longer that insecure, powerless 15 year old who didn’t have control of your environment.
How to De-Activate Your Brain’s Emergency Alarm
1. Remember that Now is different from Then.
2. Notice what’s different about now. (For example, I’m an independent, capable adult; Aunt Ruthie’s criticisms of me are more of a reflection on her inner world, and not based in reality; I can’t change Uncle Joe, and his drinking is not my responsibility, etc.)
3. Breathe. Try the 4-7-8: Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, exhale for a count of eight. Practice this pattern at least three times in succession, and numerous times throughout during the day.
4. Have a plan. When Mom stonewalls the family, or Dad starts yelling, have an exit strategy. You can excuse yourself and go outside, do a few overhead arm stretches to release tension, go to the bathroom and practice positive mantras, or call a friend, etc.
5. Let go. Be responsible for how you react, and allow others to react as they will.
The most important tip of all this holiday season is to knowing you don’t have to be possessed by your past, or hijacked by your future. You can rewire those synapses which threaten to send you into fight or flight mode. Even if your brain would like you to think differently.
During this holiday season, I wish you and yours the best.
Until next time,
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