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How to Thrive During the Holidays If Being Around Family Is Hard

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It is that time of year where everywhere you look there are holiday festivities, decor and programming. The idea of shopping for presents, adding some festive decorations to your living space and planning out the perfect outfit for these special days are the focus. For some people, this can be a joyful time of year. But this is not the case for everyone. If you have challenging relationships or are completely estranged from people in your life, then the holidays can actually be triggering. Here is a brief guide to get through the end-of-year holidays.

1. Mindfulness.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in daily life, but if you’re noticing yourself becoming increasingly anxious or overwhelmed when holidays approach, then it is worth checking in with yourself. Take note of how you feel when you think about the “family plans” that are being made around the holiday. Ask yourself if you are feeling worse at the thought of visiting a particular place or person/group of people.

2. Expectations.

Be aware of your expectations for the holidays and your visits. Don’t be caught by surprise by repetitive patterns (i.e. if you know every year you are asked a million questions about what you’re doing with your life, or being given unsolicited advice, it’s more than likely going to happen once again). While you cannot control what other people say or do, you can control how you decide to respond. You get to decide if you’re going to do your best to ignore or disengage unwarranted commentary, or if it’s time to set firm boundaries.

3. Boundaries.

This can be a tricky area for many people. Especially if you identify as a people-pleaser, or if there are professional guilt-trippers within your family. You may end up being put into a situation you’re uncomfortable with. If you find yourself compromising your own physical, emotional or financial limits to satisfy others, this can be problematic. Protect yourself by re-evaluating your personal ground rules and enforce them as needed.

4. Take breaks.

Whether you are traveling or hosting for the holidays, it can become overwhelming. Whether your holidays have a strict agenda to stick to or are completely without a plan, you may benefit from giving yourself a break. This will allow you to excuse yourself from the crowd and give yourself space to breathe. A break can be as simple as going to the bathroom to take a couple of deep breaths, or taking a brief walk outside. You get to decide what you need.

5. Weigh it out.

Determine if visiting with particular family members is worth it. This can be extremely difficult. “But they are my family” will often come up for many, many people. Being family is no excuse for toxic behavior. Sacrificing your own mental wellbeing should not be the cost of admission to a holiday.

Holidays can bring up all sorts of feelings for people, whether that’s happiness, dread, everything in-between or a combination. But recognizing your own personal needs, limits and what you deserve is necessary for you to not just survive the holidays, but thrive. You may have experienced difficult relationships, sacrificing yourself for “the sake of family,” and struggled to make it through a holiday.

But you don’t need to barely make it through anymore. You can take charge. You can say no. You can decide what you will and will not accept anymore because you deserve it. You are worth it.

Getty image by gpointstudio

Originally published: November 21, 2019
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