Does your anxiety skyrocket when the holiday season comes around? Family relationships can be complicated and it’s amplified during the holidays. Being pressured to attend family gatherings and being around individuals who may not share the same values as you take a mental toll. It’s common for us to need a game plan when entering into these situations.
What Makes Families so Complicated?
Family dynamics are unique in the way that everyone has the expectations of being “the same” as each other just because you are related. In this case, we sometimes feel like we cannot truly be ourselves due to the expectations we have. Because everyone was raised the same and around each other, it rarely gives us the space to accept our individuality.
This is amplified during the holidays because of the immense pressure to “be happy” and “enjoy the family company.” But let’s be honest, everyone has at least one family member whose company is anything but enjoyable! That, and the added pressure of spending money to travel, buy gifts, and the pressure of being the best version of yourself can be overwhelming, and make the holidays miserable. Here are some ways to restore a sense of family during this holiday season while also giving you some peace of mind.
Make a Worry List
Identify, what exactly, about the holidays makes you anxious or brings your mood down. Once you identify the cause deal with it directly or ask yourself if you have control over it. Once you write down your list of worries, along with solutions, you may find your list isn’t as extensive as you thought it would be!
Have Coping Skills Ready
Sensory overload, insensitive comments made by family members, or just too many people around can cause major anxiety, and it’s valid! If you experience this, you may need to have coping skills in your back pocket whenever you need them. For example, if you are a recovering alcoholic, and a family member offers you a drink, you need to be prepared for how you are going to handle that situation. Remove yourself from things that trigger your anxiety or take a moment to yourself and just breathe. Recentering yourself is just as important as being present at the family gathering.
Make a Game Plan
If you know you will become frustrated at a certain family member, or you will be overwhelmed by everyone in one place, it’s good to create a game plan for when you arrive, how you will make your exit, and everything in between. Ask yourself who your support is in the family, where there’s space if you need time to yourself, and how long you want to talk with everyone beforehand. Knowing these answers will keep you grounded and comfortable, making the holidays more enjoyable.
Stick with People Who Support You
Who says you need to hang with the family members who stress you out? Be with family who makes you comfortable and happy! Maybe that’s your grandmother, who is always showering you with food and hugs. Or maybe it’s sitting a the kid's table, where they express their love for Christmas gifts.
No family is perfect, and navigating the holiday season is tricky. Many families are dysfunctional in their own ways, and it’s your job to ensure you feel safe, secure, and comfortable during these situations. Knowing yourself and your boundaries will ensure you can have the merriest of holidays, and restore a sense of family.
Source: Stanford University - Surviving the Family Holiday
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine - Ten Tips for Enjoying the Holidays
Source: Footprints to Recovery (2022) 7 Ways to Get Through the Holidays with a Chaotic Family