Navigating the Holidays When You’re Barely Hanging On: 3 Simple Practices to Stay Connected to YourselfDec 14, 2022
For many, this time of year feels exhilarating, exciting, rich, and full.
It’s a time to reflect on and appreciate all you have.
Yet, if you’re feeling fraught with the indecision of parenthood vs. remaining childfree, everything can feel more complex…
A simple request can feel intrusive. Answering a question can feel like you’re giving more than you have to give.
When you’re struggling, how can you hold on to what is true for you in the face of strong personalities and other people’s judgments and opinions — when you can barely stay connected to yourself?
What if you’re barely hanging on, or feeling depleted, or just down and out — and don’t know how you’re going to get through the next month in the face of other people’s positive cheerfulness?
Many people try to fake feeling good or happy because it feels easier than setting a new boundary or facing the truth that you’re not feeling so great this year.
The truth is, although the learning curve may hurt, developing healthy boundaries is easier in the long run. I’m here to help.
3 Practices to Stay Connected to Yourself
1. Visualize yourself standing tall with a thick boundary drawn around the edges of you.
Pick a color that feels good to you. Now close your eyes and really see yourself protected within that thick line drawn around you.
Notice how nothing can get through or cross that thick line unless invited in by you. You are the manager in charge of who gets in. Whether you’re able to do this or not, just trying to see the image will help.
Having healthy boundaries means you know you’re a separate human being from others. You want to be able to feel the point at which you end, and another person begins. Even if the people whom you’ve felt merged with do not have healthy boundaries, you can still maintain them for yourself.
2. Make a list of everything good about you. Read it out loud starting with the phrase, “The following is absolutely true about me.”
Part two of this list can include everything you wish you knew or felt about yourself. Begin reading that part of the list out loud, starting with the phrase, “I desire to know the truth about the following…”
This list will help you identify where you might feel more vulnerable in the face of other people telling you what you should know or should do. This is where you want to take extra care of yourself.
3. Have your response ready.
Of course, real-life interactions never allow us to stick to a script. Yet, it can be very helpful to reflect on how you’ll respond to difficult questions during holiday gatherings. You can even practice in the mirror if you’d like!
For example, it’s always okay to tell someone “I’m not available to have this discussion with you right now.” Or…
Them: “When are you going to have kids? You would be a great mom/parent.”
You: “I hear you and I know you are trying to be helpful. Right now, your encouragement is not helpful to me. I am not available for this conversation. I promise to let you know when I want to hear all your thoughts about whether I should become a mom or not. The soonest I'll be available for this conversation will be next February or April or never, if then. The most helpful thing you can do for me right now is to say to me, ‘I trust you'll sort out what is best for you. I'm here for you if you need my help.’”
When people are persistent, you might need to be a bit firmer.
You: “I need you to stop asking me about children. I do not want to discuss this with you right now.” (You’ll likely need to repeat this many times. Repetition is the key here, not escalation.)
Having healthy boundaries in place means you’ll need to grow the muscle of tolerating other people’s disappointment. If necessary, you’ll want to be able to say, “I don’t see it that way,” or “I respectfully disagree with you.”
No one automatically deserves to know where you stand regarding choices you’ve made, or are about to make, regarding children or living childfree. Certainly, it’s your prerogative to share whatever you’d like to share and with whom.
While this time of year can be difficult, please know you’re not alone.
This holiday season and always, the most important practice of all is trusting your inner guidance. When your gut is tied into knots or you have an uneasy feeling in your body, it’s trying to tell you something. Listen to it.
Wishing you peace and healthy boundaries this holiday season and beyond.