There are many things to be thankful for that are floating through my head and my heart as I wake this morning of Thanksgiving. I could list all of those things, or share with you ways in which to celebrate your own gratitude. I could tell you the “top 10 ways to not be stressed this holiday season”. I could, but I’m not.
One thing that’s occurred to me recently as these holidays have crept closer is the need to address something super important that often does not get light it deserves. We're talking about vulnerability.
For many, the holidays are a time when you head home for a few days to spend with family. Others enjoy the holiday season with their "chosen" family of friends. It may include travel, high stress with loved ones, or even the financial burden of purchasing gifts upon gifts for those who will be at the gathering. This is also a time of deep reflection, both as we get closer to the end of the year, and also thinking of what your family may think of the new job you took, how you look, what your love life is like, managing strained relationships with those you're visiting, or the age-old: when are you going to have kids? Especially at these times, we tend to view our life in the eyes of our closest family and friends, to both our advantage and demise.
My husband and I have super supportive families who allow us the space to make independent decisions, but sometimes those can hit home hard. Now that we're married - what's the next step? After the excitement of our wedding this year settles down, what will we be asked about next: buying a home, having kids, settling down? (None of which we know we're really ready for, mind you.) It creates a bit of stress, but also something deeper: vulnerability of your life splayed out to be dissected, unsolicited suggestions to be given, and pondering who you are supposed to be.
According to Webster's, the adjective vulnerable is synonymous with defenseless, exposed, helpless, susceptible, undefended, unguarded, unprotected. Does this feel familiar to you? Maybe not only during the holidays, but it could be a feeling, an emotion you struggle with every day of the year. Whether you feel this from others, or if you tend to put this one your own self, we experience vulnerability every day of our lives.
To navigate vulnerability during this particularly high stress time of year, I'm sharing a few thoughts to take into consideration to feel strong, confident and ready to embrace this sometimes wary emotion.
Breath work can assist in gathering your thoughts, clearing your clouded thoughts and allowing you to open your mind to shift things into perspective - not to mention physiologically soothing your body's cells and nerves. Navigating family (and even friend) dynamics can be quite challenging, so embrace your breath and allow your body to release tension through this practice. Need a hand getting started? Try the 4-5-4 breath: breathe in for four counts, hold at the top for five counts, then exhale for four counts. Set a timer for yourself for 1-2 min as you work through this breathing, or simply move through it for as long as it feels good to you!
Hip stretching is, in my opinion, an extremely underrated tool in releasing pent up emotion. The prominent yoga media outlet, Yoga Journal, states that "...when we are in stressful situations (“fight or flight” occurrences), we engage our emotional muscles, and we tighten our hips." By relaxing those muscles, tendons, and the energy that binds them, you're allowing your body to literally loosen emotions, which gives you an opportunity to carefully sort through those feelings that have come up (and maybe shed a tear or two in the process to just let. that. shit. go.).
When in doubt, journal it out! Writing things down on a piece of paper - whether in a journal, or on a piece of paper you later burn, can change your entire attitude. You give your heart - but mostly your head - a break from the endless stream of thoughts, emotions, and ..you guessed it, vulnerability that's stirring up within you. Its never a good idea to let it fester, so sort through what you're feeling, and maybe even share those thoughts with a dear friend, a group of women you trust, or even set aside some time with your mom to chat about what you're feeling at this time.
Lastly, I want to add the most important tip - embrace that vulnerability. We all experience it. It's a human feeling that is completely normal. But not only is it normal, it actually allows us an opportunity to say "I own this. This is who I am. And I'm more than ok with it."
This holiday season, trust in yourself that you are beautiful, you are whole, and you are exactly who + where you are meant to be. Let that sink in, dear one. You've got this!