Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I Create My Own Chaos (Thoughts on Staying Relaxed and Setting Boundaries During the Holiday Season)

Photos via Pinterest.

Today on Alive in the Fire we’re going to talk about setting healthy boundaries for yourself and with those you love. During the holidays, this can be especially challenging – you’re meeting up with family members you may not have seen in a long time, or maybe some who you don’t get along well with. It’s important to check in with yourself: what are my needs? What emotions am I neglecting?

Often it can be tempting to agree to spending time doing whatever everyone else has planned, or saying “yes” to all of the chaos that’s available: over-spending on gifts, filling up the calendar, pushing yoga to the bottom of the priority list, not taking time to release frustration and built-up emotion, and just generally getting overwhelmed by the flurry of activity going on.

As we close out this year, I invite you to consider this: what chaos am I creating in my own life? What can I choose to let go of?

It’s just like finding our edge in yoga and choosing to respect that edge while we are in the pose. Where can I soften? Instead of forcing, where can I release?

One of my sponsored yogis, Justin, shares some reflections on how you can protect your own space and choose to be happy even when the holidays provide opportunities to get stressed… these are some fantastic tips!

The holidays are usually a time of year I would prefer to avoid. I watch as the number in my bank account decreases, and my expectation for having the "perfect" holiday increases, and the likelihood of family drama usually sky rockets. Often I do my best to avoid the typical holiday, but this year I had the most family interaction in over 5 years and there was little to no trouble with my family members...and No...I didn't replace them with paid actors, I've just put into practice many tips and techniques I've learned over the years.

Visiting family over the holidays is similar to trying out a new yoga studio after a long break from practice. The studio might not be the right temperature and my body might be super tight...this certainly is not what I want! But if I accept that the studio and my body are how they are, and work with them in that moment, then there's the opportunity for things to warm up, get moving, and actually be enjoyable. I've learned that if I accept my family as they are and don't expect them to be the perfect, father, mother, sister, etc. then the entire interaction has a chance to warm up as opposed to when I fought so hard to make them into the person I wanted them to be. 

I know that was an amazing metaphor that will instantly transform you life, but just in case it didn't here are some practical tips that have helped me reduce holiday drama:

  • I stay with a friend I like spending time with instead of family.
  • I have an alternative plan for every situation that makes me nervous. It's easier to stay if I know it's by choice and not lack of options.
  • I plan for the worst and hope for the best.
  • I limit the time I spend with people I don't like. I can hold my tongue easier for two hours than two days.
  • I start defining my plans and expectations for the holidays weeks in advance. This prevents me from surprising myself and others with the expectation of a Walton family Christmas.
  • If I'm invited to a fight, I don't accept the invitation. Like when I'm in half moon and my mind wants to make plans for the weekend I kindly decline and go back to improving my posture.

All these behaviors take practice to implement and it's helpful to hear other people with similar situations describe their success or failure with different options. Whether it’s friends in the yoga community or through other support groups I find listening to other share their experience gives me options I didn't know existed. 

Also having a chance to share out loud my thought process makes conscious my attitudes and beliefs and gives me the opportunity to put them in perspective and change them once I recognize how unreasonable and unhelpful they are. 

The 2013 holidays are almost behind us; let's use them as a reference point for learning and growth and a stepping stone to cheerful holidays in 2014.

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