Dread-filled anticipation lay like fresh paint over Cara’s pretty features. Her smile faded as new jazzy guitar riffs—spiced-up tired holiday tunes—were piped through overhead speakers. She said, “I dread the holidays! The closer they get, the more stress I feel. Never-ending family pressure and obligation plagues me. Someone always gets their feelings hurt, drinks too much, says something inappropriate, or is just plain inconsiderate. It’s weird, when my family gets together, we all revert to childhood position and behavior no matter how we’ve changed or grown. It stresses me out.”
Holidays can be stressful for many reasons. Remember to use our three steps to manage anxiety. 1) Get present by focusing on breath. 2) Repeat the mantra “In this moment, I am safe.” 3) Smile.
These three steps stop a progression of anxiety, but there is something else we can do. We can wear our “emotional raincoat.” It protects us from insensitive remarks, emotional barbs, and a tendency to revert to old family paradigms.
We create the raincoat in our minds. Before a gathering, we visualize our slicker. We can make it any color, style, or pattern. Mine has a clear sheen with bright yellow ducklings along its trim. The front is adorned with shiny clasps that hold it tight against me. I wear a fashionable rain hat too. After I visualize my gear, I carefully see myself put it on and fasten it securely. Our raincoat protects us like this: hurtful comments, unappreciated observations, and statements designed to bait us into old insecurities simply hit our protective coat and slide to the floor, never penetrating our emotions. We don’t need to respond negatively because the intended or unintended remarks and energy lose their power. They become just words unable to hurt us. It’s amazing when we use visualization and understand intention[BL1] . We give ourselves room [BL2] to recognize and understand old patterns of angry, fearful remarks are about the people who speak them and not about us. This Thanksgiving, master holiday anxiety using three steps and wear your emotional raincoat. Let’s enjoy the holidays in a new way. And don’t forget to BREATHE!