Those of us who grew up in dysfunctional homes often have an especially hard time staying serene during the holiday season. For example, long ago I saw a TV ad showing a smiling, happy family sharing Christmas dinner. I just blew up, “That’s not how it was at my home!” Later, I wrote this poem.
Possum Hill Christmas
“I’m the youngest of four at this Christmas dinner. My feet dangle—clean socks, patent leather shoes. We sit, waiting for Dad to come home. Mom’s tense, fretting over peas, turkey, and gravy. Her mother is quiet, reserved, disapproving. Something unspoken thickens the air. But we pretend it isn’t there. Finally, he arrives, boots muddying the carpet, drunken roars clouding the air. I sink lower and lower into my chair. This isn’t happening. I’m not here.”
[Read how I healed the insecurities created by these and other events in Chapter 5 of 50 Ways to Worry Less Now.]
So many of us have harsh memories of the drunken bashes and ugly scenes birthed by copious amounts of holiday “spirits.” What an upside-down way of celebrating Christ’s birth! We knew we were supposed to be happy, but all too often we felt hurt and confused.
Family Holidays: Tips To Stay Serene
Now, however, we’re no longer at the mercy of others. We can choose to be serene with our families by using the following tips.
- Family Wounds. If you were harmed by your family members OR if you harmed the family you created, the damage may take years to heal. Instead of trying to fix that, we first heal ourselves and gain spiritual strength. If being with your own family might prove too distressing this year, feel free to set some boundaries.
- Time with Family. Early on, I discovered (the hard way!) that, after about three days, I reverted to my old insecurities and unhappiness. So, I kept my family visits short. After a few years of growth, I was able to extend my time and stay serene.
- Prayer and Meditation. To prepare for family gatherings, I often increase my prayer and meditation. If I start feeling upset or defensive during the visit, I use one of my favorite prayers : “Please help me to see this (situation, family member, etc.) differently.” It acknowledges that my perceptions are clouded by judgment or anger; and that a power greater than my self-centered fear can restore my serenity. I also use guided meditations to reprogram my tension or negativity, for example Kelly Hine’s bodyandsoulretreats.com and Kristin Neff’s SelfCompassion.org.
My Wish for You
I wish you the wisdom and power to put your own happiness and serenity ahead of the need to please others, especially family, during this holiday season. I send you lots of love and encouragement!
What are some of your favorite ways of staying serene during the holidays? Please share them in the comments section below.
Gigi Langer is a former “Queen of Worry” who holds an MA in Psychology and PhD in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford University. She is a popular speaker who has helped thousands of people improve their lives at home and work. Gigi hasn’t had a drug or drink for over 30 years, and lives happily in Michigan with her husband, Peter and her cat, Murphy.