Harness the Power of Relationships to Navigate the Holidays

Fall is here (I think!) and we are collectively anticipating the approach of the holidays. As Thanksgiving approaches, we have potential opportunities to recognize and celebrate our relationships with family and friends. It may even be a time for reflection and forgiveness in some relationships. What, if any, Thanksgiving traditions or rituals do you and your family share?

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Thanksgiving seems like a gateway to winter and the *Holiday Season*. How do we navigate the holidays with our most important relationships in mind? How do we want to feel before, during and after the holidays?

With slogans like *It’s the most wonderful time of year* we can feel tremendous pressure to live up to collective expectations, hopes and dreams. We don’t necessarily talk about the mixed feelings we have about the holidays. This can put a lot of pressure on those relationships that are most important to us.

Stress levels go up, whether the cause of the stress is good or bad. The days get shorter, the nights longer. While winter is a time for *hibernation* and turning inward it is simultaneously a time during which we all come together to celebrate in many different ways. I wonder, how do we harness the power of relationships and connection in a positive way during this time?

The holidays, particularly these winter ones, conjure up all kinds of thoughts and feelings. Some people fondly recall holidays celebrated growing up while others would just as soon forget. We might be dreading *going home* for the holidays. Perhaps, we can find the relationship(s) wherein we can be true to ourselves, no matter how we choose to celebrate, or not, the holidays.

How do we *head home* for the holidays while also holding onto a clear sense of ourselves? No matter how old we are, we can still have that sinking feeling that we are suddenly back to being who we once were within our family system.

Bringing our awareness to what we want and need around holidays can be challenging and profoundly helpful. For instance, identifying what works best when it comes to spending time with extended family. What do you know, what have you learned over the years through all of your experiences? What do the holidays mean to you? To your family? What if you make just one small change in how you do things this year?

It takes courage to ask yourself, *What can I do differently this year?* Remembering we only have the power to change ourselves and how we show up with family, friends and in the world.

*Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness* ~ Brené Brown

Maybe you suggest a shift this year. Even a small change can dramatically impact the outcome of an experience. Maybe you decide to come together to do new things, have new adventures and stories to share. Perhaps you all give collectively to a charity. Or maybe you volunteer together. Whatever you choose to do, doing it with your family can certainly enhance your experience of this time of year. Creating new rituals to share with each other can be very powerful and satisfying.

For many, spending the holidays with friends who are like family is one option. Especially for those living far from their families. We can co-create holiday celebrations and traditions together. These celebrations can be imbued with traditions friends want to share with each other and, perhaps, honour from their own families.

Being sensitive to friends and what this time of year means to them. If someone has recently experienced a loss, how can you, as their friend or family member, support them through the holidays? Respect how they choose to move through the holidays. Listen to their feelings. You might create a ritual to honour the memory of their loved one. Or you might make a donation in the memory of their loved one. And sometimes just a call or a note to say you remember can mean so much.

It can be helpful to be clear about your expectations of your family and friends around the holidays. Letting them know what you need or want. And get curious. What are their expectations? Clarity increases the chance that you, and all of the people you are in relationship with, will truly enjoy the holidays together!

What will you do this year to demonstrate that you are keeping your family and friends close in your thoughts? What gestures would be meaningful?

How can we bring genuineness and authenticity to the holidays?

How do you stay connected to your family, friends and co-workers during the holidays?

*Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they do when they stick together.* -Verna M. Kelly