Self-care Sensitivity

An Empath’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays

I can’t believe it’s nearly December! For any sensitive soul who celebrates, well, anything at all – or is choosing not to, this festive period can sometimes pose a challenge when it comes to staying balanced and centered. I know I can get somewhat overstimulated by all the incessant commercial messages and expectations of what the holidays ‘should’ look like, if I’m not mindful. But there are ways to stay in your zen cave and still enjoy yourself!

Here’s a guide for staying heart-centered during the holidays:

  1. Self-compassion, always. Set an intention for yourself going into the holiday season, whatever the role you’re going to play. Whether you’re hosting, visiting, staying alone, traveling – make it a priority to periodically check in with how you’re feeling, and to tend to whatever comes up. Release all expectations of how any event or meeting with your family ‘should’ go. Release any expectation that you’re supposed to feel magically ‘Happy’ on New Year’s Eve or do something ‘wild’ (when it’s never been something you wanted before) or conversely, to stay in when you really do want to go out! Release the pressure on how things should turn out, and remember that YOU count too. Pay loving attention to yourself.
  2. You can say ‘No’. Let this be your cardinal rule. Say it nicely, say it gently, say it politely, gracefully, with tact, but always remember, you can decline. No to too much food, no to spending more than you can really afford, no to anything that pushes you beyond the zone of stimulation that’s optimal for you. The rush of excess and indulgence in the air sometimes tricks us into thinking, ‘Yeah! That’s totally for me too!’ but, it’s probably best to check in to see if that’s really true. For example, I always think that just because all that peppermint bark is on offer, means that I MUST eat MORE of it… But I always end up regretting it, because all that sugar makes me feel loopy and out of sorts. (Even if it is delicious.)
  3. You can choose not to respond. If the holiday season means more face time with relatives for you, then perhaps you may come up against someone you aren’t all that fond of. But remember: you can choose not to respond. Especially when it comes to diatribes, snippy remarks, someone’s meltdown; you also DON’T have to rescue an uneasy silence or awkward undercurrents in the conversation if you don’t want to. You don’t have to save the day. You don’t have to put on a happy face if you’re not feeling it just to make everyone feel better (if no one is actually playing nice). You don’t have to take this opportunity to school anyone, or try to change anyone’s minds. But you can smile, and understand that whatever this person is saying is just a reflection of them – not you!
  4. Are you triggered by any particular loved one? Take note of the emotion that rises. Let this be the year that you don’t bite back OR let your mood be affected by it. Really. When you feel anger or annoyance rising, breathe, go for a walk, or say: “I’m really frustrated right now. I’m going to step out for a bit.” Even taking a little pause before letting anything loose from your lips will help you be mindful of your response. Table this trigger and tell yourself you’ll look at it later when things are calmer. Now is not the time for analysis. Also, if you have been doing any work on yourself, yet still find yourself getting triggered? Please don’t beat yourself up for it. Remind yourself of #1. Forgive yourself.
  5. It’s not always your stuff. During the holiday season, the collective tends to, well, feel more – reminisce more, release more, get triggered more – and all of that is in the air. So, remember that what you’re feeling might not be really yours. Check in with your heart and mind to see if there’s any reason for you feeling a certain way, and if not, release it!
  6. Focus on finding the joy, love, beauty and goodness in any situation you’re in. Even if it’s in the tensest, most awkward situation – take a breath and be grateful for that – that singular breath. For the ground under your feet that’s always supporting you. For peppermint bark. For lessons that life is so graciously presenting to you, all to support your growth and evolution as a kick-ass soul on earth.

The people in our lives are mirrors, partners and fellow souls on a journey. I see the holidays as just markers in the passage of time to take stock of our growth and if we’re lucky enough, to have people we love in our lives to enjoy this time of the year with (and also as a distraction from the fact that it’s getting colder and darker, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere!). Here’s wishing you a safe, centered and heart-filled season ahead!

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