Christmas Under The Table Anyone? Five Ways To Reclaim Your Power During The Holiday Season!Dec 18, 2022
With the holiday season fast approaching, its a good time to practice what we preach. When we truly believe in creating safer environments, institutions, workplaces and communities now and for the future generations, then you will be excited to have this opportunity to focus on strengthening trust within your own families. When we have homes that make uncomfortable conversations comfortable we actively challenge this culture of silence within our systems and society. And our children learn that silence is not an option and that their voice has power.
When we build trust we grow connection, when we build connection we grow safety, when we build safety we grow acceptance, when we build acceptance we grow non-judgement. From love and kindness, we grow a culture of respect. When we open those doors of the homes we visit or when we open our own, I invite you to open your hearts and your minds, to the possibility and opportunity to grow more of those things within your own families. Here are some ways you can do that:
1. Be gentle.
No matter, what holiday you celebrate, this time of year can stir up a lot of mixed emotions from the past--particularly grief and loss which from the outside can look like many things, detachment, isolation, numbness, irritability, anxiety, avoidance, sadness, depression, frustration. Most of which come from a place of not having the communication skills to express or put into words how we're feeling and that's ok.
Before having a baby, I used to journal to help me process but now withdrawing has become my way of conserving energy and giving myself the space and time to reflect. I'm highly sensitive and irritable around this time of year. I reflect on my brother not being at Christmas and what his life might have looked like. I reflect on who has passed; we lost my best furry friend, Mina. I reflect on what I've learned and achieved but more so on what's still left to do. As much as I love being a mum, I'm still adjusting my expectations; I can get done about a third of what I used to before having a baby. And productivity is one way I judge myself. I reflect on what I want 2023 to look like, what I want more or less of - like more 'me time' and 'time with friends.' Trauma makes us incredibly empathic so I find myself emotional reflecting on families and individuals suffering through this time. You can see how this time of year can really pull at the heart strings so please be gentle with others including yourself.
2. Be grateful
This time every year looks different to me, some years I've felt excited and energised dancing putting up the Christmas tree, others incredibly depressed, quiet and sad. Though, always the same in many ways, some family members complaining about how they wish our family was different, more fun, more connected, more caring. Always having to remind them there are people far worst off than them. I am flooded with images of children who don't have homes, food or safety. Babies in refugee camps emaciated in crying mothers arms living in desperate poverty, Missing relatives who have passed, locked up in prison, fighting for human rights, in detention centres waiting for aslyum, have sick loved one, struggling with the throws of addiction, or alone. I only have to cast my memory back to India and remember children scavenging around in the rubbish tips for plastic bottles to buy food and the creeps that would own them. There's too much suffering in the world to list them all so we can only be grateful for what we do have even if it doesn't seem like we have much at all, compared to some, we are living like kings
3. Challenge the superficial bullshit
Every year, I feel overwhelmed by the pressure of having to attend events that involve a lot of superficial bullshit talk. I skip large work functions because I'd prefer to spend time with my family then small talk with people I don't really know. Mostly because I prefer to have more meaningful conversations. There are some events I want to attend like Christmas family events but even those, every year I feel gutted and disappointed that not one person asked me a question. Nothing. Not, what have you been up to this year? How am I? What have I learned? Not one. No one. And I walk away from Christmas wondering, do these people even care about me? We exchange presents, niceties, smiles and food but is this really just some annual faux expectation placed upon us or do we actually give a shit about the people in this room? I know I do. I know I ask questions. "Wrap it up", my brother saids, "let's wrap it up and get out of here." But I don't want to wrap it up. Because every year, I wrap it up and sweep these feelings under the table for the dogs to eat, is another opportunity to connect missed. And I have a daughter now and my grandparents are getting old. So I'm changing things up this year, as much as I resent having to, I've reached out to my cousins asking for their help to bring games that can help facilitate more laughter, connection and happier memories for us all and for our children's future.
4. Be kind
I'm also someone that remembers everything! I remember Mitch's Auntie and Uncle and how they made me feel so ugly, unimportant and rejected one year by completely ignoring me and anything I said (both police officers - people who are supposed to make people feel safe in the community). It took some time but Mitch eventually found out why. It was rude. And personally, I would never make someone feel like that and it hurt incredibly that I don't want to go back to that house ever again. And I'm not sure I will. Deep down we all still carry a wounded child within us and during the holiday season it's incredibly important to be mindful of how as human beings we all need to feel accepted, included, invited, appreciated, heard, welcome, loved and most importantly like we belong. I know for some families this might be incredibly difficult, if you have a perpetrator you have to sit across from or someone who drives you insane, you have the right to feel safe so protect yourself by all means. I'm talking about reaching out to the people who look uncomfortable, who are quiet, who no one is talking to and make them feel seen and appreciated. No one should feel invisible ever especially during the holiday season. Even a smile goes a long way.
5. Be Prepared
I learned working with young people with trauma that its important to give them a sense of control so at the start of every day we would talk about what was planned for the day. Mitch and I love to do this when we're feeling particularly anxious about an event. We discuss 'scenarios of concern' and together we come up with some strategies to prevent them from happening or to help if they do so we're both on the same page and prepared. For eg, You might worry that you're going to feel awkward, when the family is talking to each other. We would brainstorm ideas on what you could do. Like, help out in the kitchen, take the garbage out, offer the family refills of their drinks, you could play with the kids or practice mindfulness by paying attention to your senses- what do you see, hear, taste, feel on your skin to help you come back into your body and let go of that anxiety. There's also nothing wrong with just listening too and focus on our breath.
No matter what your holiday season looks like, here's what I know, we can't control other people, the weather, the food, what we receive or don't, some environments are not comfortable on Christmas day. But we can control how we respond to them. It goes without saying, safety comes first. If you feel unsafe you can leave. But I also know a little discomfort is good for us. Stepping out of our comfort zone is uncomfortable. So try to find ways to have some fun exploring that discomfort because if we don't step out of the pond how we will ever discover the sea?
Sending you health, happiness and wellness during the holiday season and for goodness sake, please rest! We need it. We really do. Listen to your body. Take the time you need for you. You bloody well deserve it!
Lots of love and safe big hugs from my family to yours. :)
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