How to Stay Calm When Your Family’s Driving You Nuts, According to Philly Meditation Pros

Bookmark this to make it through all the politics-ridden dinner conversations.

With the holidays comes a whole slew of baggage (pun intended, obviously). And, while the food is DOPE, the seemingly never-ending family time can be a lot to handle. The kids high on sugar, the moody teenagers, and the meddling aunts are enough to make you want to freak out — but we can’t because 1) that would really upset Mom and Dad, and 2) we’re grown-ups now.

So, to help you stay calm and centered this holiday season, we asked two of Philly’s top meditation gurus, Ali Tomlinson of In-Power Performance Coaching and Kilkenny Tremblay of Sanctuary Yoga and Mindfulness, to share their top tips for keeping calm (if not downright peaceful) when family time becomes overwhelming. Take notes, friends — your mental health is worth it!

Dance It Out. (No, Seriously!)
I bet even the most meditation-phobic folks in the room can get down with this calm-inducing trick: “When my to-do list gets crazy-long and I have a million places to be, I make sure I have music with me — it makes the hours of shopping, cooking or wrapping SO much easier when you have some good jams to rock out to while you work. But when things get particularly stressful, a 30-second dance party solves everything. (Yes, I have done this in the mall, and yes, you have to try it.). Plus, when your family is driving you bonkers, get them in on the dance party-action and enjoy the energy shift.” —Ali Tomlinson

Practice Your ABCs
No, not those ABCs. Utilize the meditation ABCs to work through stressful family time situations. Questions about what you’re doing with your life? Certainly. Political conversations? Definitely. “A is for arrest — simply stop doing whatever you are doing; stop directing your attention outward and redirect it inward, to yourself. B is for breathe — take three deep breaths. C for connect — connect to your roots, as in whatever is supporting your lower body. If you are standing, it’s your legs and if you’re seated, your hips — noticing the sensations of that which is holding you up. This technique will help you find strength, lower reactivity and calm your nervous system.” —Kilkenny Tremblay.

Snag Alone Time Whenever Possible
“Take a sacred pause in the form of a self-induced time out. Often when we spend time with family, we feel that we are perceived in ways that aren’t really who we are as our fully-fledged adult and autonomous selves. Understandably, this can leave us feeling unsettled and agitated. Try planning short pockets of time when you can be completely by yourself. Perhaps a solo walk around the block, a superfluous excursion to the grocery store or Wawa, or even some extra trips to the bathroom where you can simply take some deep breaths and reconnect to the entirety of who you are — not just exclusively in relationship to your family. This will help you recenter and locate your peace and power.” —Kilkenny Tremblay.

Pick Up a Calming Mantra
“Try using the ancient technology of a mind tool — which in the meditation tradition is called a mantra — by repeating silently ‘Shanti.’ Separate this mantra into two syllables as you coordinate it with your breath: Repeat shan on your inhalation and ti on the exhalation with each ensuing breath. When we hone the power of our minds with a mantra and then coordinate our thoughts with our breath, our nervous system calms and, in turn, we locate more peace — the literal meaning of this mantra.” — Kilkenny Tremblay.

Use the Age-Old Trick of Counting It Out
“Silently counting backward from 10 is an ancient technique that can give your mind a steady focal point which helps calm a stressed and jumbled head.”— Kilkenny Tremblay.

Make Room for an Intention
“Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of four. As you exhale, repeat to yourself ‘release.’ Complete this process just a few times and when you have cleared some of your physical and mental tension, direct your mental energy toward setting an intention. An intention is a your mind’s roadmap. Perhaps you want to set the intention of shopping with patience and kindness, regardless of the crowds. Perhaps your intention is to focus on bringing laughter into every room. Whatever it is, set your intention and commit to following through!” — Ali Tomlinson.

When All Else Fails, Love Them Anyway
“Families can be a handful. They can be chaotic, rambunctious, offensive, late, early, over the top or MIA. Family time can be tough. But whether they are your chosen family or family by blood, family is family. And while they may know just how to push your buttons, we can choose to love them anyway. We can make the brave choice to love them as they are, every quirk, and let them love us back. This holiday season you can choose to see, speak and live from a place of relentless love and allow that to bring a sense of ease and peace to every interaction.” — Ali Tomlinson.

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