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20 Messages for Anyone Who Feels Going Home for the Holidays Is Hard

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For many, there is “no place like home for the holidays.” For others, not so much. Navigating the social expectation of going home for the holidays can be tricky, especially if you are struggling with a mental illness.

We asked people in our mental health community to give their advice for when it’s hard to go home for the holidays.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “It’s OK to not like going home. Around this time of year everyone tells you the holidays are all about family, but maybe your family isn’t the one you were born into. Maybe it’s your friends, or somewhere else feels like home. That’s OK.” — Kristian H.

2. “It’s OK to be anxious. You have to remember that people may know what you are going through, but they may not understand and that’s OK. Stay your strongest and try to breathe. Everyone is human, and everyone copes with feelings differently.” — Becca H.

3. “You’re gonna get through this! Bring some things with you to take your mind off things for a while like crossword puzzles, coloring books, handheld video games, etc.” — Angelique B.

4. “Choosing to take care of yourself is not selfish. It’s OK to put healthy boundaries in place and do what’s best for you. Don’t lose yourself in the effort to please others!”— Jamie B.

5. “’No’ is a complete and valid answer. You do not owe anyone an explanation for doing what is best for yourself.” — Britny M.

6. “Do what’s best for you. Even if it means walking out, making quiet time for yourself or leaving altogether.”— Shannon D.

7. “Make your visit short if you can, [but] if not, take breaks during your visit. Have some ‘me-time’ to regroup, go get coffee, take a drive, etc. before you head to another event or tackle another family party.”— Erin K.

8. “Set up an alternate support system. Text friends, meet up with people, have someone you can rely on in those tough moments [to] support you and remove you from the situation.” — Jenna H.

9. “Remember you are loved, important and deserving of respect. Even if the people around you lead you to think otherwise.” — Sarah B.

10. “[You can] say no. Say no to toxic family or friends who await you at home. Hang out with friends or volunteer. We [sometimes] feel a duty to connect with people who harm us and I think it’s time we say no.”  — Alicia R.

11. “Don’t feel obligated to participate in every single activity. If you need a break from everyone and everything, then take it. Just explain you need a little while to recharge and rest.” — Jessica E.

12. “Stay in a hotel. Even if your trip lasts multiple days, you still have your own space to go back to.”— Andrew P.

13. “Bring comfort items and bring your strength. If you can’t do it, that’s OK too. Self-care comes first. Always. Regardless [of] what you do, it’s OK. You need to take care of you.” — Samantha E.

14. “Create a safety/wellness plan for yourself before finalizing any holiday plans. [For example,] if you’re not feeling mentally well, [have a] plan to leave early, [with] a reason you’re comfortable with. Create some affirmations you can say to yourself if you begin to feel unwell during the occasion.” — Corey L.

15. “It’s OK to not go home. Our mental health is very important. Don’t feel guilty. You come first. You are important. Your feelings are valid and you need to do what is best for you.”  — Rachel C.

16. “You don’t owe anybody an explanation. If going home for the holidays is something that completes you, then go and have fun. If even the thought of getting out of bed that day makes you want to hide, then don’t go. Take care of you first!” — Alex P.

17. “Have an escape plan. Be clear about how long you’ll stay and what behaviors will make you leave. Sometimes it takes more courage to choose to be safe by staying away than it would to go into a situation you know will be unsafe in.” — Jessa L.

18. “Set clear limits and boundaries before you leave, and stick to them. Make sure your family knows you will need your own space. When you need to leave, do it.” — Kerry K. 

19. ” If your family doesn’t respond to your needs or ignores your boundaries, you don’t have to stay. Decide ahead of time – for yourself – what you want to get out of spending time with them. Sometimes showing up then leaving is the best it’s going to get. When things don’t feel good to you, disengage with love. If you’re triggered and have a hard time responding that way, just disengage. Have a plan B so you have another option to have a good holiday. ” — Davida H.

20. “If you’re an adult, you really do have the right to spend the holidays how, where and with whom you want.” — Kimwa W.

*Some answers have been edited and shortened.

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Originally published: December 7, 2016
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