The holidays are a great time for food, friends, family and perhaps most importantly, mindfulness. During the holiday we take time to be with our loved ones and express gratitude for all of the great things in our lives. It truly is a special time of year and one that I treasure.
But let’s be honest here, the holidays can be stressful as well. Running from store to store trying to find the right present, spending a whole day cooking for Thanksgiving, cleaning the house, wrapping gifts, decorating both the inside and outside of the house and so much more!!! No wonder people have a love/hate relationship with this time of the year.
To make matters worse, many of us also have to deal with our families during the holidays, which in and of itself, can be challenging. For some, spending a few days with their family can cause anxiety and frustration. You never know what your crazy aunt is going to say at the dinner table and for some reason, it always seems like your family is the craziest when everyone is together.
But why is it so hard to deal with family during the holidays?? Furthermore, what is it about our families that makes us so prone to frustration?
I think the answer lies in history. That is, the history we’ve accumulated with the people closest to us. Who knows us better than mom and dad? Who other than your big brother who was there when you were just an awkward teenager? Of course it’s your family!
When you spend a lot of time with people you develop roles and responsibilities. For example, mom is the parent and her responsibility is to take care of her children. But when we grow up, those roles change and for some individuals that can be a difficult thing to come to terms with. We hold on to the past as it were, and sometimes this can cause the past to repeat itself.
The reason grandma can get under your skin so easily is because you want her to see you as an adult and unfortunately she can only see you as her grandchild. Now, this isn’t the case in every situation but it’s the case often enough. It’s almost like you want things to change and grandma wants things to stay the same. This gap between expectations can cause a lot of frustration and resentment.
So what do we do?
First, be mindful! A lot of us don’t even know how we want our relationships to look because we never ask ourselves. We just assume that “This is how it will always be,” when in reality, a simple conversation can change everything. If you don’t know what you want in this world and from the people you love, then maybe it’s time you start figuring it out. Because ultimately, you cannot wish things into existence, you can only act things into existence.
Once you know what kind of relationship you want with your family your next task to communicate!! Tell them how you feel and set boundaries. There is nothing wrong with having personal boundaries and the sad truth is, if you don’t set them, someone else will set them for you—and you might not like them! Boundaries are actually a healthy thing in relationships because it lets the person know more about you and what your expectations are for them in the relationship. Of course, this works both ways so be sure to listen to and accept the boundaries set by your loved ones.
By asking yourself what you want from the relationship and establishing boundaries you have effectively set the table. Once the table is set your job is to listen--both to yourself and to your loved one. Setting boundries and establishing your desires for a relationship are kind of like positioning a boat towards your final destination. Depending on how rough the water is you will need to make corrections along the way to ensure you don’t go off course. Again this is where mindfulness comes into play.
Because there is so much history with family and the neuropathways are so engrained it’s easy for us to fall victim to tirggers and react instead of respond. By listening to your thoughts as mom or dad is speaking, you can guard yourself against faling into old traps. You can keep your mind present which is the ultimate sign of love and respect. That being said, I can tell you from first hand experience this takes practice.
Being present and listening to the thinker at the same time can be difficult because we are so used to identifying with those old narratives. But this is where the practice lies. Every time you find your mind repeating an old narrative, bring your attention back to the person in front of you. You might even find it helpful to feel your breath as you listen. Don’t worry about hearing every word. You will be surprised with how well you respond when you are there in the moment with the sole intent of being the space for the people you love. When you are there in the moment your mind and body respond from a place of love, not old mental mind patterns.
In the end, mindfulness is a way for us to express or love fully while at the same time protect ourselves from toxic triggers. It’s a tool to help you get the most out of your relationships. Surprisingly, it’s also a tool to allow you to give the best of yourself to someone else.
So give it a try. Set boundaries with you loved ones. Before you do, think about what you want those boundaries and your relationship to look like. Sometimes giving people what they need instead of what they want is the greatest sign of love. It’s not always easy to be honest, but you will find that your relationships only get better when everyone knows whats expected.
And lastly, once you set those boundaries be sure to focus your attention while you interact with your family. Watch out for those old triggers and express love in its purest form—with presence.
Thank you as always for reading our blog today. We hope you are all enjoying the holidays and we would love to hear how you have used mindfulness to create better relationships with your family. Make sure to drop us a note and let us know what kind of mindfulness tools you’ve used.
Until next time, many many blessings.