Going home for holidays can be stressful and require a great deal of planning and thought - this is true for anyone living away, but especially for expats who only get home once a year or less.
For expats, short holidays can mean intense periods of trying to "make up for" the long time spent away from family and friends. It can also mean taking on the expectations of others, and falling back into patterns established by parents or other people during our childhood or formative years. This can be stressful in itself! Often, we find ourselves reacting to things that normally don't bother us, or experiencing feelings we haven't felt in years. It can sometimes feel like all of the personal learning and growth we have done is erased in a matter of hours!
I normally make the long journey back to Canada once a year to visit family and friends. It is something I generally look forward to, but it also causes a lot of stress. Since taking on the personal groundwork and learning that has helped me become an effective and confident coach, I have been more thoughtful and intentional about my holidays and the people I choose to spend my time with. But it's a process, and I still make mistakes.
My clients also speak about challenges of visiting home, and there are so many things that can make us unhappy and stressed when we travel and decide to spend time with people we haven't seen in some time. Things like:
- trying to see everyone we haven't seen all year in a short period of time,
- trying to relax (it is after all our vacation) while other people want us to attend events or engage in more "exciting" activities
- trying to please everyone else or go on their schedule
- feeling like you have to plan and organize for everyone, or serve as a tour guide for visitors
- taking on burdens that don't make you happy, or leave you feeling resentful
- not being intentional and just moving passively through your days based on the needs and desires of others
As in my day to day life, I try to be really intentional about how I spend my time on holidays, but I am still susceptible to the emotional pressures of trying to please others and fit in everything that everyone else wants to do. I resist it, but I know I can work on my communication around it (as my husband says, 'managing expectations'), and there are other aspects that I am currently exploring as we are in Canada for a short time this summer.
Self-managing is important, and I try to remember to practice the things that keep me grounded. I also find it helpful to build in moments of peace and quiet. Whether it's taking myself off to bed early, or finding a moment alone in the morning, I need some quiet time to myself to manage any uneasiness I may be feeling. I am becoming more introverted as I get older, and this realization alone has helped me immensely.
Mindset is a big one for me, too. If you start to focus on all of the things that are not going how you like, the situation can seem grim. If, on the other hand, you look for the silver lining or the small moments of goodness, that can help you see more of the good happening around you. Yesterday morning, my husband and I taught my stepdaughter to ride a bike (without stabilizers!) for the first time. She was so excited and so were we! Celebrating her achievement helped us to focus on something positive and to value the holiday for the things it brings us rather than the things that annoy us.
What habits or practices do you have that help you when you are travelling back home? What are your triggers? Sometimes just getting clear about these things can be helpful. Other times, we need more specific interventions or strategies to help ease the burden or stress we feel when we visit home. I would love to hear from you about your holiday strategies for bringing more ease to a potentially stressful situation. Please share below in the comments!