Returning home for the holidays always brings a rush of emotions and (sometimes) challenges: how to relate with your relatives, how to stay healthy and sane, how to properly express yourself… Especially if your family members don’t recognize the “new” you.
One of the challenges of creating your own life is that it demands that you develop new mindsets, values, and habits. Otherwise, you won’t be able to support the changes you want to make and the lifestyle you want to build.
But what happens when your loved ones don’t support your growth? Especially during the holiday season, when chaos is common and stress is the unhealthy norm?
These are questions I faced when I returned home for the holidays after spending a year abroad. I had done some deep work, shedding a lot of the unhealthy and disempowering beliefs that were holding me back. And I returned to them as a new person, with habits and mindsets that I had sculpted out after months of effort.
But my family hadn’t joined me on the journey… And they weren’t necessarily interested in finding out what I had learned on mine.
After talking to many friends, I realized that this is an extremely common challenge for anyone who dedicates their life to personal development. Eventually, we shed old skins — and this can frighten those around us.
The passive aggressive behavior, the lack of enthusiasm, and the back-handed compliments are not a sign that you’re in the wrong… It’s often a sign that you’ve awakened an insecurity on their part.
Yes, it hurts… But don’t be discouraged. You don’t have to get sucked into the dysfunctional patterns of your family. You can stay true to yourself and make the most of your holiday season with these strategies.
Prepping For The Holiday Season: How to Stay Healthy
1. Know yourself
Humans are designed to feel other people’s emotions. This is true for both joy and pain. That’s beautiful, and it’s how we can develop empathy and an understanding of the world…
But that also means that we can fall into the trap of absorbing other people’s low energy and pain. A lot of us have family members who are ill or unhappy. You can show them compassion and support them, but you don’t have to take that pain on and make it your own. The same is true for their suspicions and doubts about your progress. That reflects where they’re at, not who you are.
And what’s the best way to prepare yourself so that you don’t absorb other people’s energy? Ask yourself these grounding questions before you set foot in your family home:
“What do I want to get out of this holiday season? How do I want to feel? Who do I want to be?”
2. Confirm your good habits
If you’ve been trying to develop new habits and daily rituals that contribute to your health and happiness, then solidify those habits by practicing them every day. Don’t allow yourself to make exceptions or get off track. When learning how to stay healthy, commitment to your mission is key.
3. Stop caring what other people think
I know they’re your family. But they’re also just people with opinions. And the fact that they’re human beings means that even if they have the best of intentions, they might be misguided or just flat-out wrong.
So if your family doesn’t approve or recognize who you’ve grown into? That’s alright. As long as you’re comfortable with yourself, your family will eventually learn and come along for the ride.
4. Let go of expectations, positive or negative
The beautiful thing about family and the holidays is the same thing that makes it challenging: history. We all learn to expect certain things from certain people at certain times. Maybe last year your siblings got into a fight, and so you expect them to do the same this year. Or maybe you want to believe that this Christmas dinner will go perfectly. Either way, these expectations will most likely lead to disappointment.
Instead, set intetions for yourself, like, “I will actively appreciate my family this Christmas” or “I will be more gracious in my conversations.”
5. Get good sleep, nutrition, and exercise
Yes, it really does come down to the basics. You can’t be at your best if you’re starting out grumpy and unhealthy.
How to Stay Healthy During Family Time
6. Keep investing in your own happiness and health
When we’re around loved ones, it can be really easy to get caught up in what other people want and need. But the most important thing you can do, always, any day (including the holidays), is invest in your own health and happiness.
Whether that’s spending time with friends, or journaling in the morning, or practicing noontime yoga. And when you’re actively choosing to fill yourself up with the activities that contribute to your joy and wellbeing, then you’ll be better able to take on the conflicts, flare-ups, or chaos of the holidays.
7. Find healthy ways to express negative emotions
Meditation will make you less reactive, but you’ll probably have to process negative emotions like self-doubt, irritation, or anger. Whenever I realized I was frustrated with my family or myself, I journaled. Or I went running for 30 minutes. Or I went out for a walk in nature.
And by allowing myself to express those emotions in a positive way, I deepened my good habits, ensured that I didn’t lash out at myself or others, and released pent up emotions.
8. Remind yourself who you are
When people know your past, sometimes they can’t see or acknowledge who you are in the present. That can be disconcerting… But only you know what you’ve gone through in your journey; only you know the work you’ve done; and only you can remind yourself of who you really are.
9. Take a break!
If family time gets to be too much, you have every right to take care of yourself by stepping out for a refresher.
How to stay healthy, all around? Meditate!
At this point, most of us know that meditation enhances physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing… Yet even though we know how helpful meditation can be, and even if we have a regular practice, we can fall off the bandwagon precisely at the moment we need it most. But why wait when meditation can give you deep rest, reduce stress, improve your adaptability, reduce your emotionality, and increase youre insights?
11. Be grateful
We’re supposed to acknowledge what we’re thankful for in our lives during the holidays, so it’s a great opportunity to really dive deep into the practice of gratitude. Try writing out why you’re grateful for your family, for your life, and for yourself.
Because if you find a way to appreciate yourself, your family members, and what you have, you’ll find that the negative emotions peel away so that you can enjoy your experience.
12. Forgive yourself and your family
Being able to forgive is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to learning how to stay healthy. Yet, it is perhaps one of the most important.
If you’re not able to find gratitude in the moment, then focus on forgiving your family — and yourself. Maybe you fought with your mom, or you lost track of your health goals during Christmas. You might be disappointed that you didn’t enjoy the time with your family as much as you wanted to, or that you weren’t always the best possible version of yourself, but that’s okay. Forgive, learn, and move on.
How to Stay Healthy While Recharging For The New Year
13. Re-affirm your goals and commitments
Take the time after the holidays and before the new year to recover, recharge, and re-affirm the commitments you’ve made to yourself. The hectic holidays can sweep us up in a whirlwind, and sometimes the negative feedback and mixed signals about the changes we’ve made discourages us from our goals. But you chose them for a reason.
14. Get back on track
If you got off track during the holidays, there’s really only one choice… Get back on it. The sooner you reintroduce those elements that help you feel your best, the better.
15. Stay consistent
All change comes down to this. Your family might not understand you now… But don’t worry. People are afraid of change, but if you show up, stay compassionate, and express yourself authentically on a consistent basis, people will learn to accept you on your own terms.
So make the most of your holidays and enjoy time with the loved ones. But most importantly, stay true to yourself.
Do you have any strategies for staying healthy and sane this Christmas? Share in the comments below.