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REVELATIONS- November 2016

Coping with Holiday Stress

The Ultimate Family Survival Guide

By Thomas Gagliano


The holidays are a wonderful time of year for many of us, but they can also produce a great deal of stress. Running from store to store, managing our finances, dealing with overindulged children and communicating with parents, in-laws and stubborn family members all contribute to rising holiday stress levels. And between the in-laws, ex-laws, and step-laws, just deciding which family to spend the holidays with can send us over the edge. 


Sometimes, returning home and rekindling the family dynamics we grew up with can be the most stressful of all. No matter what identity we have tried to shape for ourselves in the outside world, many of us are forced to face the roles we were set up to play in childhood. 


For example, how many of us play the role of the: People Pleaser?–Do you say “yes” to family and friends because saying “no” is too painful?  What inner voice tells you that you’re a bad person when you say “no” to others? 


Who is the: Caretaker?–Do you carry the burden of the family’s problems on your shoulders because it’s your role to take care of everything and everyone? What inner voice makes you feel guilty when asking for help? 


What about the Perfectionist?–Were you allowed to make mistakes in front of your family? God forbid your loved ones see you stumble at times. When you made a mistake, did you identify yourself as the mistake? 


Do you play a Defiant Role? –This is where you always have to be right with family members, even if it pushes them away. What inner voice tells you that you need to be right even if you push loved ones away? 


How many of you play the Invisible Role?—When you return home for the holidays, do you lose your voice and disappear into the background, unable to share your thoughts and feelings with your family?


There are three essentials needed to change your role: Awareness, Action, and Maintenance. Without awareness, you won’t understand the ways to change your actions.  Without action, there won’t be newer roles to maintain. 


  1. Grow in awareness

Why do I act the way I do? What are the payoffs for my actions, and what are the costs? The more I grow in awareness, the easier it becomes to change my behaviors. I learn how to say “no” to this voice in my head that tells me I’m a bad person if I don’t play a certain role.


 2.  Take positive actions

First, don’t react to situations, or you’ll just do what you’ve always done. Instead, when confronted with a bad situation, pause and solicit the help of others before you take action.  This is where it becomes a “we” process and not a “me” process. These are the people in your life you feel safe with—those that understand and support that you’re trying to change your role. Remember, these individuals are there to support you, not judge you. 


 3.  Maintain these actions

If you don’t continue to maintain these new behaviors, that intrusive voice will grow louder and direct you back to old behaviors.


Remember, the most important relationship we have in life is the one we have with our self.  If we are not taking care of that relationship, we will sabotage all of the relationships around us. If we seek approval from those that are incapable of giving us what we deserve, then we will only find rejection and disappointment.  Instead, we need to spend our time with people we feel emotionally safe with, those individuals with whom we can share our feelings without feeling judged. We deserve this. Become the person you want to be, not the one you were set up to be.

Parenting and relationship expert Thomas Gagliano is a bestselling author, speaker, and life coach who has emerged as a high profile leader in the world of self-help therapy and addiction. He is the author of THE PROBLEM WAS ME and his newest title, DON’T PUT YOUR CRAP IN YOUR KID’S DIAPER: The Clean Up Cost Can Last a Lifetime.

Evolving Magazine

Kansas City

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