Our Real Work: Jess Ryan, MS

Coaching and consulting. Something's calling. It's your life.

“And now the holidays?!”, and other things you don’t want to say outloud

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[Read to end. There’s a free yoga class recording you can access now.]

Family gathered around the heavily laden table. Warm lighting. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . It’s warm and nostalgic and lovely. It’s what we’re told the holidays are supposed to be like. But it’s not everyone’s experience of the holidays.

Does any of these sound familiar?

  • Your family gets into a huge fight when you are together for the holidays, so you dread getting together.
  • You don’t have family to be with, and you’re lonely. (Or you’re tired of everyone thinking you must be lonely when you love the day of solitude you’ve created for yourself.)
  • Somebody gets drunk.
  • You are shamed for not being married yet, having a baby, getting a promotion, being who others want you to be.
  • Somebody has died and you miss their presence during the holidays.
  • You are sad and the pressure to be happy and grateful makes you tired and resentful.
  • You look at what you did or didn’t do during the past year and wonder if it is enough.

Holidays are incredibly tricky. They are full of expectations from society, our families, ourselves. Even in the lead up, the memory and felt-sense of past holidays can make life hard. Are you feeling it already?

I have a lot of former clients that start calling me this time of year. They can’t name it or recognize that it’s linked with their past or this time of year, but they know they feel off and need support.  I start by asking them what made them call.

For you, where do you feel the memories of your past holidays showing up in your body or actions? Is it a lump in your throat? A tightness in your shoulders or chest? A heaviness in your belly? Take a minute to get back into your body. Find where you are holding the tension, the sadness, the anger, the anxiety, the shame, the confusion . . . you don’t even have to name it, just feel it.

Breathe into that spot. Can it loosen? Lighten?

This is a good time to come back to your physical boundaries. Grounding yourself and coming back to your body helps get you out of the mind reels we tend to get caught up in. If past holidays are causing distress, come back to your body. Go for a walk in nature, go to a yoga class, or get a massage.

Going into the body doesn’t mean ignoring our emotions. How are you feeling right now? What can you do about it? (Hint: eating four chocolate bars (I can’t speak from experience), hitting the booze, or binge watching Hallmark Christmas movies doesn’t cut it.) Start by just acknowledging your feelings. Write them out:

  • I hate that . . .
  • I’m angry because . . .
  • I miss . . .
  • I’m sad because . . .
  • I love . . .
  • I wish . . .
  • I want . . .

How can you release anger or hatred? How can you express your sadness? How can you enhance the things that you love or make you feel happy and loved? Can you do anything about your wishes and wants? Can you sit with and make space for what you feel—even if it’s not what you are “supposed” to feel right now?

A lot of emotions are tied up with family. Those present, those who have died. They bring us into family drama and relational boundaries. Working on relational boundaries can help you navigate challenging family situations without getting pushed around or sucked in or going into attack mode. You want to stop the drama. It doesn’t mean you need to like everybody or that you become the poster family for holiday loving, but you don’t have to get consumed by it.

I’m struggling with the impending holidays right now. I’m navigating loss triggers, memories of past holidays, the felt sense of it all. And I thought you might be too. To help you through:

Please try this free yoga class to help ground and center you. You can use it now and practice it throughout the holiday season (and the year).

And if getting your boundaries holiday-ready sounds like it could change how you experience this time of year, my online boundaries course might be just what you need.  As a holiday gift please use code: HOLIDAY through the end of the year to save $50.

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