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Be a friend and leave me alone

How Does That Make You Feel?

Registered Psychologist Dr. Ganz joins us to discuss "Having better relationships during the holidays by knowing when to connect and when not to."

Humans are herd animals. Our connections with others gives us our evolutionary advantage and is the foundation for civilization and all the good stuff we enjoy. When a client is in crisis or comes to my office to work on a problem, one of the first things I do is see what their social supports are like (how connected they are). On the other hand, I also want to know where they have quiet/alone time in their lives.

The fact is that you need both to be happy. During the holidays the pendulum can swing too far in one direction or another. You can feel lonely if you’re not well connected or are physically separated from your family and friends—or you can feel overwhelmed by all the social interactions and seeming obligations of the season. Here are 4 strategies that you can use to make sure you’re getting the right balance as we head into the holidays (and for the rest of the year).

1.  Prune your social tree. Who you’re around counts. Being connected is important but being around to toxic people and situations is very bad for you. It causes stress and can negatively impact your other healthy relationships. Make sure you’re aware of how you feel when you’re with the people in your life and how you feel and function after you’re with them too. You have the right and the responsibility to make sure that you are not being hurt by who you’re around. Just like pruning a real tree, when you cut off sick relationships your other relationships get more of your attention and you are able to bring more to them as well. It can be hard to end relationships (or at least limit them) but the pay offs are huge.

2.  When in doubt, reach out. If you’re starting to feel isolated or lonely. Don’t just sit in it. This is a great opportunity for you to reach out and help someone else. It may be someone at work/school/church that my also seem that they are by themselves. It’s too easy to get into the self-pity and shame vortex. But when you think about how you could serve/help someone else you break that cycle before it has a chance to get established. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen, shovel a neighbour’s sidewalk, or just go walk around the mall look people in the eye and smile. Any of these activities will break the negative cycle and change your mood for the positive. (And you’ll probably end up attracting new people into your life too).

3.  Pace yourself. Build alone time into your day. I use my journal as a tool for this. 5-10 minutes that I get to focus on me. It can also be a walk, meditation, prayer, or even your workout. But just be aware that it will only work if you don’t have other inputs like music, TV, or social media. You need your mind to be quiet so your unconscious can do its work and integrate your knowledge and experiences.

4.  Have an emergency plan. No matter how social you are everyone needs a break now and then. Especially at this time of year. Pay attention to how you feel. If you’re getting tired, cranky or just not having as much fun as you’d like know that it’s ok to call a “timeout” for yourself. Make a plan and share it with a friend or partner. You can use the buddy system and run interference for each other if needed. It’s actually better for you AND the people you’re interacting with if you take a break (or multiple breaks) instead of trying to power through all your social obligations during this season. Just “going out for ice” can help you be better company when you come back.

Practicing these 4 strategies can help you achieve the balance between connection and solitude that works for you. You’ll be happier and so will everyone else you are around during the holidays.

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