Although holiday songs tell us that this is the “most wonderful time of the year,” you may be asking yourself where all the joy in your life seems to have gone. It’s not just you – for many people, this can be a difficult period despite all the merry-making.
Now is the time when you are challenged by both the normal demands on your time and energy and the additional stress that comes from interacting with family and friends. You might begin to feel like you are moving away from your goals and the version of yourself that you want to be.
Luckily, you have the power to break this pattern.
What can you do to keep feeling like your over the holidays, no matter how emotional or intense your family get-togethers may become?
The Special Stress of the Holidays: How to Stay True to Yourself
Have you ever wondered why some things seem to bother you more when you are around your family? Does it seem like when you’re around them, you go back in time emotionally-speaking to return to a more childlike version of yourself? Or maybe you just feel less sure of yourself in general? People are often very surprised at how emotional they become in the presence of family members who are (or have been in the past) critical or competitive.
The problem is that when we become overwhelmed with emotions like these, we can lose sight of our goals of who we want to be. In essence, we can lose sight of ourselves.
Take Amy for example.
When she was younger, Amy struggled a lot with her weight. Rather than trying to understand the root of her weight issues, her parents made negative comments about her weight. Her mother would question her about her food choices and remind her how her eating would make it difficult to find a man. Her father called her mean names that constantly reminded her about those few extra pounds.
Now when she spends the holidays with them, she’s afraid of being judged about how much she weighs and what she eats. She feels criticized, even if they don’t say a word about her eating. Even worse, all this stress just seems to make her eat more. Amy likes holiday food, but she seems to be eating differently around her family. In fact, she’s doing the kind of overeating she did when she lived with them years ago. Hadn’t she grown out of this?
Coping with Stress in Your Own Way
We all develop ways to cope when we’re under stress. Often when people have grown up in difficult childhood situations like Amy’s, they learn to cope in ways that become ingrained over time. In Amy’s case, she handled her parents’ insensitivity to her weight issues by eating more.
Way back then, Amy internalized her parents’ criticism and was very hard on herself about her weight. She felt ashamed and alone. She was also angry with them. She was too young to understand that her parents had a problem: they didn’t know how to handle her weight issues. As a result, she overate to cope.
Rather than seeing it as her parents’ problem, she blamed herself (as most children do). Today, despite understanding the situation better, she still feels guilty and bad about her body even though she has lost weight. She wrongly thinks men don’t find her attractive. All of these feelings are magnified when she’s with her family.
Know What Works for You – Be Your Own Brand of Sexy!
Maybe coping in this way worked for Amy years ago, but she knew it wasn’t really working for her anymore. She wanted to be able to feel like her adult self, even in the presence of her family.
Once Amy began to understand her feelings, she no longer felt the urge to eat in a way that she felt like she couldn’t control. She realized that she had more choices for how to handle her feelings about her parents.
After considering it for awhile, Amy decided to talk to her sister who she thought would be sympathetic to her concerns about their parents. After sharing, Amy felt understood and much less alone. Thinking it through and finding someone to confide in made the holidays with her family much easier for her.
Do you feel like you may be overreacting to family stress? Might you be reliving some issues from your past? Is it possible for you to handle them in a different way?
If you are looking for answers, sign up to be one of the first to receive my new short course on Being Your Own Brand of Sexy available early 2018. In this video series, I will walk you through the steps you can start taking to stay sane when with family and be true to yourself. Grab a spot today!