Monday, April 13, 2009

How Do We Cope During Stressful Holidays?

Happy Passover and Happy Easter!! This was a week of celebration and family. To those of us who celebrate Easter next weekend, Happy Easter to you as well. Most of us spent time with our family of origin over these past few days. We look forward to the fun and food that come with celebrating the holidays. The President and First Lady celebrated their Easter with a new arrival, Bo, the Portuguese Water Dog.

We have a guest blogger today. He has a message for Bo. "Welcome Bo!! We hear that you were rescued from a family that didn't want you anymore. My humans rescued me from the overpass near their house by the highway when I was little and homeless. Congrats on getting some cool humans to take care of you Bo. Good job!! Looks like you picked some winners. Best of luck - Sam, the Cat."

We all enjoy the laughter and good times that being with family can bring. But what if our family of origin brings other gifts that aren't so enjoyable. How do we cope with family time when it isn't as pleasant as we might like?

We can take steps to practice self care. This is even more important during the holidays when emotions may be riding high and we are with those folks in our family of origin. Many of us may have developed dysfunctional life patterns as a result of our time with family members during childhood. As we advance in recovery we may find that time with our family of origin may become difficult. We may see our caretakers and siblings in a new light.

Peeling back the veneer of our defense mechanisms may expose us to some very raw emotions. We can attend family events with this in mind, planning for self care. We can use our tools to keep ourselves balanced. We can limit our visit to an amount of time that we feel is comfortable. Since we are in recovery, we can try to avoid conversations that may trigger unpleasant memories or extreme emotions. It may be difficult at first, but as we remember that we are getting healthier every day, we can empathize with others who are less healthy. We can choose to feel for them, rather than allow them to push our buttons and control our emotions. If we are being baited, we can bite our tongues and take a time out or go for a walk. We can call a trusted friend to chat. If necessary we can take our leave. We give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves.

After we return from a family event, if we feel stressed we can practice self care. We can relax with a hot bath, listen to music, meditate, read a novel, journal, work out, call a friend and plan an outing or just take a nap. Whatever pattern of self care works for us and whatever tools we implement give us greater self esteem. We are learning to take care of the one person we will be with for life - ourselves.

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