Metaverse in your head? How Letting Go & Letting Be can help

Mindful Strategy Letting Go

In this article Mindfulness Coach Sebastian explains two of his favourite mental strategies Letting Go and Letting Be to stop overthinking and reduce stress immediately. Keep your eyes open, the letters will travel wirelessly into your brain!

Mindful strategy: Letting Go

Our minds are problem solving machines. Whenever we are facing emotional stress, our minds will try to help us by finding solutions. This results in overthinking of past and future events. While playing situations back and forth, we entangle ourselves in trains of thoughts. These trains can carry us far away within seconds and often lead to more negativity instead of resolution.

The idea of Letting Go is to disengage from thoughts altogether. Knowing that thoughts are mental events and only become reality in the way we are dealing with them. Furthermore, Letting Go works best if we are able to anchor consciousness in our present moment experience.

We can do so by …

  1. Setting and holding an intention
  2. Noticing whenever attention is being pulled or distracted
  3. Coming back to what you actually set out to do

Say you want to write an email or do a 30′ cardio-workout. Instead you find yourself checking the news, social media or messaging friends. The moment you notice that you are being distracted or distracting yourself, you choose to gently bring back the focus of your attention to the task that you set out to accomplish. In this case, to write the email or to do the cardio workout.

Mindful strategy: Letting Be

Our minds are comfort seeking machines. Whenever we are facing discomfort or stress, the mind will try to help us by finding something comforting. This often results in “having it your way”. It can lead to the constant optimisation of your surroundings. And it is a bad habit.

Be with whatever arises

The intention of Letting Be is to indeed be with whatever arises in the field of your awareness. This way helps to keep an open state of awareness. If an urge to change or do something forms in your mind, you can choose to be with it, knowing that you don’t have to act.

“Letting Be is the courage to NOT have it your way”

Be non-judging

The trick is to notice and pay attention to any sense of discomfort without judging. Any thought that tells you that this is not your favourite way, any tendency to change the current situation, any bodily discomfort can be invitations to let be.

Your attention will only be divided for a moment and then return to connecting with presence. This can be very useful in any social setting or when you want to improve your performance at work or in sport.

Ways of strengthening the Letting-muscle

Any formal or informal mindfulness practice can be used to In order to strengthen the mental LETTING-muscle. Each practice sets an intention, like “anchoring awareness in the present moment” or “bringing back the focus of attention whenever attention is being pulled”.

An awareness of breathing exercise for example sets the intention anchor awareness in present moment experience by paying attention to the body sensations of breathing.

Every time you bring back the focus of attention to breathing, you also let go of a distraction. Every time you choose to not act on an urge to move or shift, you also let the sensation and the urge be.

Interview – Mindfulness Coaching to stop overthinking, reduce stress and increase performance

Couples Counselling or Individual Therapy or Both?

In this article Sebastian sheds some light on the decision making between couples counselling and individual therapy. Each service has specific advantages and is in some cases more suitable than the other.

How does Couples Therapy work?

In the couples counselling setting both partners participate at the same time and are oftentimes in the same room – either in-person or remotely via video-conference. As couples therapist I typically combine speech therapy and experiential approaches.

Experiential approaches highlight the experience in the present moment. For example the verbal and non-verbal behaviour of partners when they speak and when they listen to each other. This increased awareness is key to emotional regulation. When we are calm and open, we can connect in the loving way we once knew.

Individual sessions can be part of the couples process. In my practice these are restricted to a few sessions and with the clearly delineated purpose of serving the couples process. For example by fostering my working alliance with each partner, by tuning in to specific needs and by understanding the motivation and commitment to the process in more depth.

Identifying the “signature moves”

My goal is to identify and delineate the dynamic in a couple and the “signature moves” of each partner. We define a stress cycle with disappointing and hurtful interactions already early in the process. Behaviour often indicates that partners feel stuck, distant or unfulfilled.

In session, we flesh out the “infinity loop” of negative (and also positive) moves. The couple then becomes aware of many possibilities to introduce improvements and of opportunities to abandon the loop altogether. In short, partners learn to detect and stop the way they trigger each other.

Advantages of couples counselling

An advantage of the couples process is, that relationship issues are being addressed openly amongst partners. My presence offers a neutral and balanced arena where each voice counts the same. I also offer guidance in leading difficult conversations and often model the way of finding the right language to express needs and experiences.

How does Individual Counselling work?

In the individual counselling setting my guiding principle is to identify and delineate the main pressure points of the person in front of me. This can happen online or in-person. Most of the benefit of therapy stems from the caring and understanding attunement between the client and myself.

I frequently apply mindfulness to help increase awareness of the impact and meaning triggers have. I trust that problem-solving and finding solutions is hardly the problem for the people I work with. Instead, we need to better address stress and dysregulation.

The regulation of emotion, behaviour and body is key to our well-being and to form and maintain relationships. I typically assess for and guide through three inner strength:

  • Self-Awareness – ability to step out of auto-pilot, be present and open
  • Self-Acceptance – ability to be compassionate and to lead one-self
  • and Self-Regulation – ability to be ventral vagal more often

One-off couples sessions can be part of the individual process. In my practice these are used to hear the partner’s concerns and getting to know “the significant other” in the relationship.

Advantages of Individual Therapy

An advantage of individual counselling is, that each partner deals with their own process of personal and emotional growth at their own pace and in full control of the process. It allows to work through family background, personality and trauma in a safe space. This in order to grow a “teflon skin” and reduce your internal reactivity.

Which one is best for you?

Individual counselling helps to address old baggage that you bring into the relationship. That could be childhood trauma, unfinished business with an ex, unhealthy lifestyle and addiction, mood disorders or drama in the family of origin.

Couples therapy helps to address recurring cycles of arguments, unhelpful patterns of emotional reactivity, couples skill building (i.e. love-languages, non-violent communication, speaking from the heart, 5 losing strategies, …) and to stay tuned after an attachment injury has been processed.

Please note that the division above is simplifying and showcasing typical applications of therapy. All of the above can be worked with in either setting.

The outcome strongly depends on a safe and respectful relationship with the therapist as much as your motivation and understanding that you bring to the process.

Interview Sebastian – How to decide between Couples and Individual Counselling?

Men’s Events November / December 2022

These are in-person events for men to get together outside of the usual circles. The intention is to pause and reflect on life while encountering other men on the way.

Participants will benefit from 1:1, group conversations while also honouring silence and meditation. The green surroundings invite you to calibrate awareness and focus attention.

Men’s WALK&TALK Sat 19 November 2022 Hong Kong

The green easy 8km walk will pass waterfalls, reservoirs and goats – inviting us to stop.

The intention of the walk is to pause and reflect while encountering other men on the way.

This event supports Movember*.

Men’s RETREAT Fri 16 to Sun 18 December 2022 Thailand

This men’s retreat is for every man, who wants to immerse in a time and space fully dedicated to himself and his journey through life.

This retreat aims at …

  • Settling mind and body
  • Considering existential questions
  • Cultivating your masculine edge
  • Revealing your better version
  • Opening awareness with mindfulness

Find more detailed information here…

*Movember, the month formerly known as November, is when brave and selfless men around the world grow a moustache, and women step up to support them, all to raise awareness and funds for men’s health – specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.

Why online counselling is better than meeting your counsellor in-person and how to select.

Two years of pandemic have given us new science about the effectiveness of online counselling, live psychotherapy and telehealth, video-delivered psychotherapy and the use of video conferencing technology for individual coaching as well as couples counselling.

This is an update of my older blog due to the 2.5 years of our experience with the online delivery of courses, tutoring, education, social engagement, mental health and wellbeing. We now have scientific evidence to match our personal and professional experience of operation, normality and implicitness of video conferencing.

Efficacy and Accessibility

A brand-new meta-analysis of efficacy regarding video vs in-person treatment concludes that “…Live psychotherapy by video emerges not only as a popular and convenient choice but also one that is now upheld by meta-analytic evidence…” (JOURNAL Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. Volume28, Issue 6 Special Issue: Psychological Consequences of COVID‐19, Pages 1535-1549)

Necessity and convenience

Individualised and real-time online services for well-being, life coaching and mental health are popular. Increased disruptions in public life such as social movement and waves of outbreaks of infectious diseases impel the demand. People reduce their commutes and value the safety and convenience of home over the workplace and face-to-face socialising. Video conferencing, live chat and phone conversations have widely replaced in-person contact to address personal emotional challenges as well as mental well-being.

Efficiency and Cost

Video conferencing makes it easy and accessible to keep a healthy routine of self-care. Online counselling offers advantages in flexibility, efficiency and mobility. It demonstrates a broad range of suitability. Many people can benefit from online consultation services via video call, phone sessions, text messaging and chat.

The VDP (video delivered) improvement is most pronounced when CBT is used, and when anxiety, depression, or PTSD are targeted, and it remains strong though attenuated by publication bias. Clinically, therapy is no less efficacious when delivered via videoconferencing than in-person, with efficacy being most pronounced in CBT for affective disorders (mood disorders).

Ephrem Fernandez et al. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. Volume28, Issue 6


Boundaries and Safety from Home

Some of my online clients appreciate in particular the virtual nature of online therapy, because it also offers an additional sense of safety, built-in boundaries of time, distance and technology (i.e. mute microphone, camera on/off, etc) and occasionally anonymity.

Staying home and still being able to connect with me online is often a relieve, when suffering from anxiety or nervous tension. For clients with low mood or depression it is helpful to know that they can shorten their sessions if needed or take a break without needing to commute.

How to find an online counsellor, live coach and video-delivered psychotherapist

1. Using the first session wisely

The most important criteria for the success of remote therapy and coaching is the working alliance with your virtual coach and online therapist. A relationship of mutual trust and respect contributes 50% to successfully working together. I recommend to invest the first appointment in order for you to get a feel for your rapport.

Ask yourself if your therapist or coach is listening, resonating and empathising with you. Do you feel unconditional support and respect? From my personal experience in therapy I want my therapist to be kind, but not too soft or fluffy. It is key that he/she is honest about their feelings and thoughts and enquires into your interpersonal connection.

2. Background and Training

You can usually check the background and education of your counselor, coach and therapist on their website and social media such as LinkedIn. A simple google research will also provide you with some appearances in their professional capacity – you might find publications, videos and programs of their involvements.

Regarding further development, professional registers, specialty education and memberships it might be worthwhile to look into the online listings and registers of certifying institutions where you can search by name or location. In addition to these formal checks, I recommend for you to also get an understanding of your practitioner’s personal and professional journey through life. Does this person embody an open mind, a wholesome approach to life and possess values that serve you well?

3. Technology and Infrastructure

Although most social media provides channels and means to converse online, WhatsApp, FaceTime, HangOuts, Skype et al might not provide the best technical stability, privacy and confidentiality.

  • Does your therapist, coach and counsellor use a renown video conferencing software that enables audio, video and screen as well as file sharing features?
  • Which timezone is he/she based in and how does that align with your schedule?
  • And even more importantly: Does the connection work?
  • Is the quality of sound and vision high and stable? After all, if the line is bad, your session will be a waste of time and money.

4. Cost and Efficiency

Apropos money: Cost depends on duration, practitioner experience, specialisations and clientele. Much like seeking out a personal trainer, it is essential that you become clear of your ambition, budget and priorities.

Beware of someone who makes unrealistic promises or seems to want to make a sale rather than seriously offering services with integrity and decency. Online coaching is not a one-off. Therapy and counselling benefits from regular and steady commitment to depth and experience.

Most decent practitioners value timeline over quick-wins and hence are willing to reward your engagement into a process and a series of sessions over time. Expect to pay in a range of 100 to 450USD (70 to 400EUR, 130 to 660AUD, 400 to 3500HKD) with rates being typically higher for business coaching.

5. How to prepare as a client

From many years of experience as an online counsellor I have learned to check with my clients if they are ready to work with me. Here is what I am asking for in order to ensure best results. I basically want you to show up for an online session in exactly the same way you would show up face-to-face in my office – my recommended online way is per video call.

  1. Environment – be in a quiet space, with good light and sound and a steady camera
  2. Attitude – be dressed in smart casual and ready to stay focused while our meeting lasts
  3. Discipline – be on time, but prepared to wait a few minutes in the waiting room feature
  4. Privacy – be present (no cats, colleagues or other communications)

Being well prepared is great gift of respect from both sides. It always yields better results for your online therapy.

Wishing you an insightful and healing online experience, Counselling Psychologist Sebastian


Good Practice in Action 047 – Fact Sheet: Working Online in the Counselling Professions is published by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, BACP House, 15 St John’s Business Park, Lutterworth, Leicestershire LE17 4HB. (Updated March 2019)

MEN’S WATCH AND TALK – online event

This is an online event for men to get together to watch and discuss a documentary about a men’s group and – amongst others – the question “What does it mean to be a man?”.

In the film, the members of a diverse group of men take center stage. Their personal reflections on life’s challenges is contrasted by a journey to WWI sites – shockingly topical – mirroring the present times of war in Europe.

Counselling Psychologist Sebastian hereby responds to the recent impact of the pandemic on quality of life in Hong Kong and Asia Pacific. The intention being to reflect on male topics and to connect through a shared experience – far away from the often depressing daily news.

“Every man is an island. But some men build island chains, underneath they are connected”


  • Monday 28 March 2022 on Zoom
  • Start 19:30 HKT time
    • Introduction & Meditation (or technical setup)
    • Watching the movie (70′)
    • Sharing session (30′)
    • Closing Meditation
  • End 21:30 HKT time
  • Cost: FREE – registration required

M O V I E durch T E C H N I K

  • Participation in the Zoom Meeting is free of charge upon registration
  • Participants need to rent or buy the movie on Vimeo
  • The purchase is not part of the registration
  • Link and further info: MAKE ME A MAN


Sebastian has no affiliation with the owner/producer/promoter of the film, nor is he affiliated with the vimeo platform. Sebastian does not have any commercial upside by organising this event. I simply liked the documentary as a piece of art and deem it worthwhile sharing with likeminded men.

Register here…

Micro-pollution of the mind. How it causes negativity and poor performance

What are micro-stresses and how do they affect you?

Micro-stresses are the abundance of minor annoyances and small adversities we experience throughout the day. The driver who cuts you off in traffic, the colleague who slows down your time-sensitive assignment, the broken coffee machine that messes with your refreshment pause.

Each occurrence on it’s own does not seem like a big deal. It’s the accumulation that weighs on you like a stein-holding contest. Added up, they are a whole lot of straws resting on the proverbial camel’s back. They are often the reason we’re exhausted at the end of the day (in HBR. July 2020) or why we will snap at the most minor of inconveniences.

In this short read you will learn that micro-stresses only get to you if you let them and what you can do to develop a teflon-skin from which stressors just roll off.

Why “micro” and not “macro“?

While macro stress manifests more directly and instantly, micro stress will nibble at your subconscious over a prolonged period. Wearing you down bit by bit until you feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of it all. Managing these micro stresses could be the key to unlocking a heightened sense of worth.

There are many facets to the world of micro-stress. One aspect is purely psychological: how we interpret actions, how we manage situations, and how we will dwell on minor irritations. The link between both is Emotion.

The salient stressors in the lives of most human beings today — at least in the industrialised world — are emotional. Just like laboratory animals unable to escape, people find themselves trapped in lifestyles and emotional patterns inimical to their health.

― Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress

But this only represents half of the story. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also paramount to overall wellbeing. A healthy level of diet and exercise will have a doubling effect on mental health. These activities promote and maintain overall health and create a fulfilling feeling of achievement, which goes a long way when dealing with stress of any kind. 

The effects of stress on overall health

Stress plays a massive part in our overall mental welfare, but people often don’t acknowledge its effect on physical health. Many studies have proven stress to cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. It is estimated that stress negatively impacts the lives of up to 85% of the population, and 60-80% of all doctor visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

In strong cases, stress can manifest as panic attacks, paranoia and poor mental health along with a weakened immune system. And more frequently than you may realise, unmanaged stress can lead to physical burnout.

How to train yourself to deal with micro stress

The first step to dealing with micro-stress, is identifying and acknowledging its existence. Due to the sheer volume of micro-stresses, some studies claim that we are on the receiving end of between 20 and 30 micro-stressful situations on any given day. We can analyse these occurrences, determine the common factors and learn how and when to disengage when we encounter them. 

A helpful habit is to halt what you’re doing and gather yourself for a moment or just a few seconds. As micro-stresses impact our daily lives, then conversely, micro-affirmations can have a positive effect. Small pauses can have big impacts.

Engage in short activities that generally induce a calming effect on your personality. Everyone has their preferred method. Standard practices include listening to calming music, taking a walk, or practicing some simple breathing exercises.

The important factor is to take a break from what you are doing. If you work in an office environment, get away from that screen. Set a timer if you need to. Get up and stretch, take in some nature if possible, or talk to a friend—but avoid any topics that generally get you riled up.


Micro-stresses are NOT a genuine problem endemic to today’s society, even though it is impossible to prevent them altogether. The stress only arises within our SELF (after all the coffee machine is not stressed at all about it’s poor performance) and we can adopt several ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Amongst those ways are mindful attitudes like kindness, acceptance and patience. Moreover, it is essential to respect and listen to your body, feelings and emotions: maintain a healthy diet, regularly engage in physical activities and work on getting a good night’s sleep. 

We no longer sense what is happening in our bodies and cannot therefore act in self-preserving ways. The physiology of stress eats away at our bodies not because it has outlived its usefulness but because we may no longer have the competence to recognise its signals.

― Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress

2 answers from a client regarding depression

This is a short read. A client of mine kindly provided some feedback on his counselling process with me and what he thinks of medication facing symptoms of depression.

This is an update of an older blog. You can read the original blog here…

How counselling helped you with low mood and lacking pleasure?

Looking back, it’s difficult to remember how I got myself into such a mess. At the time, though, it was very real, destructive and dark. My sessions with you were like a lifeline. One of the most important factors was feeling that I had a team around me. That you shared my different battles and that I was not alone. Your wholehearted approval (and surprise) when I mentioned that I had gone sailing while in the very depths of melancholy was especially memorable! Various insights you offered – and a couple of the books you recommended – helped me to better understand my depression. Some of the techniques and words of advice you shared helped me to create a toolkit to dig my way out of the hole I was in.

Photo by cottonbro on

Where would you draw the line to medication and psychology?

As you will recall, I chose to go onto Prozac during all of this. In retrospect, it’s hard to know what role, if any, it played in my recovery. In fact during the first ten days, it made me worse. However, there was a watershed point about 6 weeks after I started the Prozac when I began to quickly and steadily recover. At the time, it felt as if I had absorbed a sufficient level of Prozac and my brain was now being flooded with happy chemicals. However, I have no way of objectively quantifying what was the Prozac and what was my natural recovery mode kicking in. If I were ever to go into serious depression again (God forbid), I would probably go back onto anti-depressants. I would certainly immediately go into counseling. I hope these comments are helpful to others.


Happy birthday pandemic

A developmental view on our struggles with a prospering little one

“Dear Pandemic,

You are now two years old and have developed quite a character already. It took us a while to realise that we all are your parents and that you are now in our lives. Many of the adults still struggle with demanding responsibilities.

Your motor skills keep us on our toes, Just recently you started running and climbing. It is sometimes scary how easy it is to lose sight of you. Then we can’t find you, only to have you appear in places we thought we had safaguarded from your access. We protect areas that are not suitable for you, but you still gain access.

Recently you started carrying more and more things with you, attracting family members, colleagues, neighbours and strangers with your temparament. Everyone around seems drawn to watch how you become more self-aware. Some think this is cute and harmless, but we are not always so sure. Currently you are all that matters to you. You have discovered to scream “No!” to anything we propose and your moods can truly be contagious.

When you stubbornly resist direction at this age, I do wonder how much waywardness there might still come in a few years. And I shudder. Seeing you interested in other children makes us curious and we are stunned by how well you seem to observe and imitate.

We have seen so many different ways of parenting and we clearly see the helplessness and overburdening expressed on clumsy and failing approaches of interaction. A lot of the parental behaviour is inconsistent and oftentimes arises out of convenience, complacency but mainly stems from stress. It’s the over-activation of the constant need to be vigilant, but also the toll of emotional rollercoasters – endlessly swinging from high to low.

Moments of joy and hope come crashing down with despair and a deep sense of loss of control. Dealing with this young pandemic can be challenging in Hong Kong, Asia and worldwide. It is helpful to seek coaching or counselling with a registered counsellor who can help to understand your own psychology and to provide you with tools and techniques to strengthen your capacity.

Your language skills are stunning. Just recently you surprised us with more letters of the greek alphabet and with an unusual appetite for the longer words. In addition, you also frustrate us with your rapid development of new and more refined behaviours. Entertaining table after table in a restaurant? Not a problem for you. Goofing around with air crew members? Yup, they can regress to toddlers themselves when interacting with you.

As inexperienced parents we need to remind ourselves of some basics to deal with a 2y-old. Being knowledgable and prepared for the development and challenges to come is a good start. Exercising pretend play is absolutely age appropriate (i.e. by using virtual communication channels or bringing travel destinations to your home through food, movies, music and activities AND by exploring and expanding on the things around like growing plants and flowers at home, visit nature, outdoor sights and activities.”

Riding the tiger – How family reunions bring out your inner child

Family reunions act like time machines. The identities and independence we created for ourselves come crashing down the moment we arrive in familiar circles. The matrix of generational dynamics has us acting and feeling the deja-vus of our inner child.

The Drama of Coming Home

Festive holidays often mean a coming home – figuratively, literally and nowadays also virtually. Because of tradition, good intentions and the part of us that is looking forward to reuniting, we tend to suppress some negative factors that soon start to aggravate.

“Tiger years are years of change and the tiger stands for quick action. This can mean hot temper and drama at home.”

Tom Jones

Clashing Past and Present

Holidays come with cultural and traditional norms and obligations plus expectations regarding the behaviour of hosts and guests alike. Oftentimes creating a screen of perfectionism or a facade of flawlessness. Returning to the familial home and community for the holidays creates pressure to conform to expected behavior which is now at odds with one’s identity.

The inner child awakens with more force when we are spending time with family members in close conditions. The wounds of our unmet, neglected and abused psychic needs start hurting more than usual. Research studies have shown that most people describe parts of their family relationships “conflicted or “ambivalent” and a significant prevalence of estrangement between family members. 

Four fundamental psychic needs

  1. Belonging & Attachment
    • The desire to belong, connection and community is essential to our survival and hence makes us all social beings. The child in us hardwires disruptions during early childhood from neglect, rejection, abandonment and abuse. Parenting shapes the attachment styles we internalise as adults.
  2. Autonomy & Safety
    • As much as we strive for belonging and attachment, we also long for exploration, self-expression and independence. Safety is gained through control. The more we are or feel in charge, the more we are or feel in control. “Control Freaks” are driven by the anxiety of dealing with uncertainty.
  3. Gratification & avoiding listlessness
    • Learning to tame this need correlates with success, but it also causes frustration and low mood. Spoiled children struggle with unfulfilled cravings often acting out in an agitated way. Unhealthy lifestyles are often connected with an excessive satisfaction of this need to compensate neglected other needs.
  4. Recognition & Acceptance
    • As social beings, we all seek recognition and acceptance from others to feed our sense of self-worth. Parents can equip us with a good amount of self-worth, which then protects us from being overly needy. However they can also fail to do so, which then often leads to behavioural patterns of people pleasing, self-sacrifice or approval seeking.

Acting out of inner conflict

Many of my clients in Hong Kong carry a strong inner conflict between autonomy and attachment. They find themselves in a zone of suffering between the pull of powerful, rich, egocentric, critical or traditional parents and the push of autonomic growth and control of their own educated, gifted and competent selfs.

Meeting with family typically induces a mixture of excitement and dread in many people.  However, with forethought and realistic expectations we can sidestep family drama and even create new positive memories. Old wounds may resurface and we easily fall into behavior patterns that are hauntingly familiar. 

Furthermore, the pressure is on to give the impression of our best selves, that we are living our best lives (thanks, social media!).  Such is the need for approval and acceptance that we will forego our autonomy.  The disparity between feelings and actions will distress the individual, making tensions between family members rise.

Nurturing your inner child and those of others

Self-awareness first

Work out when and how you are going to factor in self-care whilst you are out of your usual routine.  If you know being around people 24/7 is simply going to wear you out and you get grumpy when you get tired, plan for some downtime.  Even people who adore the holiday season and their families usually need a break to recharge.

Setting Boundaries

Before you get home, consider making it clear ahead of time exactly what activities and events you are willing to participate in this year.  Encourage others to do the same.  Setting such boundaries will protect you and your family in the long run. Did you know that setting boundaries makes you happier?  Setting realistic expectations ahead of time will prevent disappointment and the risk of others loading on emotional blackmail on the spot.

Lower your expectations

Rather than mentally trawling through the Rolodex of past grievances before you get home, filling your headspace with negativity, try to use this time for forethought by mindfully setting your own realistic expectations … and lowering them!!!  Acknowledging your own triggers ahead of time and accepting the family situation for what it is will help you to keep a cool head when you get there.  Ultimately, you can only control your own actions, trying to manage others will only lead to disappointment and frustration.

Activity vs Idle time

Plan plenty of (optional) activities for everyone to do together. Try getting active to shift any negative energy; go for a long walk in nature, pick a funny interactive board game or cook something together.  This could be the opportunity to forge new positive memories rather than focus on past hurts.  After all, research shows that our memories of past events are rarely accurate anyway.

Backing up for self-protection

Finally, work out your backup plan if everything gets too much.  Before conflict breaks out or someone says something hurtful, have a mental, emotional and practical “escape route” planned out when you feel the heat rising. 

Knowing you have this option sorted just in case ahead of time will improve the likelihood that you can distance yourself from the drama and retreat before you get sucked in.  It is about you being able to take a step back and consider the situation with perspective. 

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