How to Enjoy the Holidays in an Emotionally Healthy Way
–By Aisha Abbasi M.D.-
The joys of the holiday season are upon us, but it is also a time of mixed feelings for many people. As much as you might want to reconnect with close and distant relatives, you may also have worries about your negative feelings about some of them. With the close proximity often created over the holidays, old rivalries between siblings can flare up, old hurts with parents might come to the forefront, and feelings about inclusion and exclusion in your extended family group are bound to surface.
How do you deal with all this and still enjoy the holidays? Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a Time Out: Make sure to carve out some quiet “away” time for yourself every day, even when visiting with family. I often plan time for a long walk or a trip to the local gym (if possible), usually on my own, but occasionally with one family member whom I can trust for a pleasant experience or meaningful conversation. If walking alone, I might listen to music I enjoy. I also like taking photos of simple, everyday scenes and images not typically captured on camera, and later I may browse the gallery to post my favorites for fun on Instagram or Facebook.
- Remain Calm: Remember that intense conversations about long-standing family feuds are best not dealt with during Christmas Eve dinner. If a family member has had one too many of their beverage of choice, and he or she tries to engage you in a heated argument about old issues or recent interactions, be prepared to say the following: “Happy to talk to you about this privately, when we are not in the middle of a holiday celebration. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas to you, too.” Then walk away to another room for the time being.
- Don’t Regress: Being with one’s family of origin often causes a psychological regression. Well-functioning adults start feeling like kids when back in their old family home and around their parents. Sometimes the presence of a supportive partner or spouse helps with this problem. They may serve as a reminder of your adult self and ability to function as an adult. The main help about this issue, though, has to come from within you. You will need to reflect on what is being stirred up inside you and what is pulling you back into childhood modes of functioning.
- Use Your Resources: It is important to remind yourself that you are an adult now, with emotional resources you did not have as a child. When old family dynamics pull you into behaving in ways that are non-productive for you, remember you DO have choices and resources now that you didn’t have when you were a kid.
If you find it difficult to discover and exercise healthier ways of dealing with old family dynamics, therapy with a well-trained and experienced clinician can help profoundly with such issues.
Dr. Aisha Abbasi , the Founder of Tampa Bay Center for Psychological Health, has been voted (by other physicians) one of The Best Doctors in America for 17 consecutive years. Check this blog in the coming weeks for more tips and helpful articles. At Tampa Bay Center for Psychological Health, our goal is to offer a safe, confidential, and trustworthy treatment setting for all patients. For more information, or to request your free 20-minute initial phone consultation, please contact Dr. Abbasi at 813-492-9241.