Are you traveling to see your family soon? Visiting family fills some people with a sense of excitement. For others, it brings up concern or even dread.
Do you ever feel off-center after spending a few days with a difficult family member? It’s almost as though your good habits fall away – you start eating emotionally, stop exercising and get sucked into the same old patterns you thought you left behind. It’s as though nothing has changed.
Your best efforts to connect with family and take care of yourself fall flat on the floor. Before you know it, you feel off-balance, maybe even miserable. Even after you return home, days go by before you begin feel like yourself again.
So how do you make it through a holiday visit without losing your center or falling back into your own destructive habits?
The key is to create safe spaces for your feelings. If you notice you’re starting to feel triggered by a difficult family member, it can seem like you have to stuff away your feelings and keep on going. Or, as big feelings build up, you may feel like you need to explode and end up saying things that might hurt someone, or that you may regret.
So what does it mean to make a safe space for your feelings? It means creating ways for your feelings to be loved and released, rather than ignored. A safe space for feelings allows you to let off steam before emotions run so high you end up venting because you just can’t hold back.
Let’s talk about how you can create a safe space for your feelings.
When you were young, growing up with these folks, it would have been really different if there had been a loving, wise-hearted woman watching over you. She’d have made space for your feelings to be received with unconditional, nourishing love. She’d have always really understood you and could help you get what you needed. She would tell you you do not have to face things alone, and that you are worthy of love and care.
You deserved this kind of ally. And it would have been really different if you had her with you when you were young.
And, yet, unconditional support wasn’t always available. You didn’t always get the support you needed to feel loved and understood through your hard feelings. Instead you were shushed, misunderstood, ignored, or maybe even punished for your feelings.
And you know what? That time is over. All done.
You’ll never again be so fully and totally dependent on another person to care for you, keep you safe, and understand you.
And even more importantly, you have a new ally to take home with you this year: you.
Your heart can love you unconditionally. You can choose to accept yourself – whole and imperfect – flaws and all. You can decide: I’m worth it, I didn’t deserve the mistreatment I lived through when I was little. I’m not going to beat myself up, or put myself aside, any longer.
You have the most beautiful, loving, capable ally anyone could ever imagine.
You have YOU.
Now, what does it mean to be an ally to yourself? As an ally, you love yourself enough to do the things you know you need, even when it doesn’t feel possible. As an ally, you think about what kinds of things will really support you in a rough moment at home, and decide to do them when things get rocky.
If you’re traveling to see a difficult, harsh, or negative person, you’re likely to wind up feeling triggered at some point. When you do, it’s time to roll out your self-care strategy, which you came prepared with when you walked in the door.
Let’s take a moment and figure out a self-care strategy that works for you.
When you’re upset, do you like to talk with someone? Take a walk? Go for a run? Maybe you like to listen to angry music, or make art or write? What helps re-center you when you’re having a hard day? Those are the things you’ll pull out when emotions start to run high.
When you first notice you’re starting to feel triggered, stop what you’re doing and decide to pull out one of your self-care tactics. You can excuse yourself and go for a walk, give your best friend a call, or head to your room, close the door and pull out your journal to vent what you feel inside.
When you do, you’ll find your feelings begin to shift, and things don’t feel so difficult.
You’ll feel a shift, and when you sense it, you’ll feel more ready to walk back into the room and say hello. You’ll be ready to connect again, all the while having had a safe space so you didn’t have to ignore your feelings or step on anyone else’s. You can show yourself the love you’re needing, and turn a tough moment into an opportunity to breathe, love, and grow.
You deserve it.