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Holidays in Relapse & Hopeful for Recovery: A letter to families of those who suffer with mental

Dear family in pain right now,

Here you are again with your family member and it is the holiday season. Everyone’s energy is mostly focused on the well being of the one suffering and racking their brain on how to fix everything before the holidays are in full swing. But what about the rest of you? The ones that want to walk away but can’t. The ones that are feeling guilty that your loved one is suffering and you’re not. The ones that are angry that another holiday is affected. The ones that have no idea what to do and how to move forward. You might be trying to keep it all together for everyone else while one of your own is in relapse and out of balance or maybe you are coming undone completely and are not holding it together this year. Either way, you are in relapse and out of balance too. Not exactly what you had planned during the most wonderful time of the year, huh?

So what now? Christmas is coming regardless of where your struggling family members’ condition on that day. How do you find the joy?

Here are a few survival tips:

1. You are going to be vulnerable and raw. It is important to practice self care like it is your full time job. Patience with yourself and validating your range of emotions is crucial. Allow a certain amount of time each day (15-30) for yourself to grieve, think and just feel bad about your current situation. Allow some time for heartbreak. Then after you have spent a certain amount of time feeling it all, you can move on with your day. Put on your absolutely favorite Christmas album or movie and pull out a treasured recipe or flip through a holiday magazine. Get out in the cool air and breathe in its freshness. Make a cup of sipping bone broth or hot tea or cocoa and feel the warmth of the mug on your hands and the healing scent through your nose. Diffuse some of your favorite holiday essential oils...especially any and all tree oils...let them ground you back in your body so that the mind can rest.

2. And on the mind...your mind is going to go all over the place from making sense of the past to worrying about what the future brings. Breathing exercises are wonderful (inhale through the nose for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and exhale through the mouth like you a carefully blowing out a candle on a set table with a tablecloth for 7 seconds is a great way to start). If you have the Calm app, and you are somewhere where you ca step away and use it, breathing exercise are on there too. Meditation is also crucial..try to do it at least before you go to bed so that your mind can rest a bit at least once throughout your day. YouTube has a wealth of meditations to choose from (type in the search bar "grounding meditation") and as I mentioned earlier, the Calm App is also a solid option for guided meditations too. It costs money to download, but let me tell you, it is totally worth it-it can be a gift to you from Santa!!

3. Who you are around right now is imperative to your well being. You are in a delicate situation and are in need of connection and belonging too. Think about who warms your heart and make plans to be around them this time of year especially when you are in need. Your nerves are exposed and raw and can swing up or down at any moment. It isn’t easy to hold it together especially since there are family gatherings this time of year. All you have to do here is check in with you and your emotional climate regularly. If you are just not up to gathering with others, then that is okay. If you would prefer a few friends and family members to come by and see you, then just ask them. There is no need to explain to anyone if you can’t make it to a gathering, but I do not suggest staying isolated in your home either. This is an opportunity to ask for help and love from others. Trust me! Go ahead and ask!

4. Communication is KEY! This is the most important piece. These times of crisis are actually wonderful opportunities to practice clear, authentic communication with other family members and friends. I know I mentioned above that no explanation is necessary, but who are we kidding-someone is going to ask you why or get their feelings hurt. That is unavoidable and a part of the process my friends, but it doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to do anything in hopes to make them feel better (codependency be gone). You see, the way to rid codependent behavior is to communicate clearly and authentically and to practice not worrying about how it might affect others. It will not help you at all to add this to your already full preoccupied plate. So come up with an answer for anyone that asks, and stick to it. For example, “we are not going to be able to join you this year and are having a hard time with where we are in this crisis with our loved one. I appreciate your understanding as we pick up the pieces and ask for positive thoughts and prayers as we take steps each day to better days.” You are not apologizing, you are honoring yourself where you are right now. You are also asking them to do something for you which more than likely they are wondering what they can do to help you. It’s loving, honest, clear communication that provides the opportunity for family members to show up for you in a supportive warm way, not a defensive way. And bonus, you get to flex your receiving muscles by asking others to support you. It's a win-win-win-win!

So dear family who is in pain, I hope these tips can provide you a light on this treacherous part of your path. Remember, you are not alone and someone is sending you love, strength, compassion and grace right here in this letter to you from me.

With love, Angela

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