For many people, holidays are a great source of comfort and joy—a time to see family, participate in fun traditions, or start new ones with loved ones. However, for others, the holidays can be stressful and overwhelming. Many people may feel obligated to attend family gatherings or other gatherings. Maybe you have recently quit drinking, have toxic family members or have other reasons that make you hesitant to attend. It may be more beneficial for you not to go or to set a limit, but you struggle to make the best decision for yourself. Perhaps a good first step is to tune into yourself and get curious about what’s coming up and why. Sometimes just understanding ourselves on a deeper level allows us to make better decisions we feel good about.

Your emotions are on your side; they are there to give you help and information. If you can pause and look at your situation through an emotional lens, you can make a more aligned decision with your true self. When we don’t listen to our bodies, we may feel more anxious and overwhelmed, without enjoyment. The more we ignore those feelings, the louder they get because they want and need to be heard. Once our feelings are heard and the appropriate action is taken, the emotions subside.

Getting curious about how you feel and tuning into what is making you feel this way is a good way to start to get to know yourself better and to honor and trust yourself.

If you find that receiving a specific holiday invitation makes you feel stressed, it is a good idea to get curious about the feelings that are coming up. Here’s a guide to help you listen and discover what you are reacting to: 

  1. Think about the invitation. Does this make you feel pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral?
  2. Stay curious. Be open and give yourself time to notice what is coming up for you internally without judgment. Describe the sensations you feel in your body when you think about the holiday invitation or person inviting you.
  3. Tune into your experience at this moment
    • Is the sensation you are experiencing concentrated in one area of your body or throughout?
    • What do you notice? Does the sensation have a shape, size, or color? How about texture, temperature, or weight? Is there an image that you associate with this sensation? 
    • What happens as you notice the sensation? Does it move or shift? Does it linger? What happens to the intensity of it?
    • If these sensations had words, what would they say?
  4. Reflect. Is this a familiar feeling? Does it bring something up from your past? What is it trying to tell you? Is there an impulse or urge to do something?

By giving yourself a little space to notice your internal experience, you often gain new understanding and clarity on the situation. This, in turn, helps you feel more comfortable and confident with your decision. Whether you decide to go or not, starting to tune in to your body is a good, small step towards listening to how you feel and making changes that align with your values and priorities. You can also choose to share with someone you trust so that you are not alone in this experience. Sometimes, validation is enough to make the hard but right choice for yourself. Additionally, you can use this information to set boundaries for yourself. Your body may tell you not to go or to limit your time; know that you can decline an invitation, propose an alternative, or leave early if you feel anxious or overwhelmed. If you are traveling for holidays with family and that feels stressful, consider staying in a hotel instead of staying with them or taking some time away to nurture yourself. Most importantly, start getting into the habit of pausing and checking in with your internal experience. Your body is communicating with you; trust the wisdom it holds.

Meet the author: Dr. Dorothy Moon

Learn More about Dorothy’s approach to therapy


Photo Credits:

Photo by Kieran White on Unsplash

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Ready to get started?