The Holidays Are Among Us
That means more time with friends and family. This is a wonderful thing, but it can also cause a great deal of anxiety. Sometimes even triggering. With an election having just passed, the political debate will be prime for the taking. Relationship statuses will be questioned. Family drama will be brought up from the previous months, maybe even years.
Indeed, there is a lot of anxiety tied to the holiday season and much of it centers around family. So, how do you deal with family conflicts during this time of year? Well, here are five tips for getting through the holidays with as little anxiety as possible!
This is a two-part area of practice. The first is understanding that your family members have different perspectives and different views of the world. Not all their political or social beliefs will align with yours. And that is okay. You should not feel pressured to defend your stance, beliefs, or views, nor should you feel obligated to change or challenge theirs. Accept that their views are different. If your family questions you about your relationship, it is out of love and concern.
They see you as an amazing person whom anyone would be lucky to have in their life. They do not understand your relationships. Whether you are choosing to be single or choosing to stay in a relationship they feel is not good for you. At the end of the day, it is your life and your decision to make when it comes to your relationships, but accepting that they believe they are looking out for your best interest will help mitigate the tension.
The second part of acceptance—the much more challenging part—is accepting that not all your family will show you the same common decency.
They may not be able to accept that your views are different from their own. They may not be able to accept that your relationships are something for you to navigate. Accept that this may be the case and that not all battles are worth fighting. Your mental well-being is most vital for you and putting too much energy into what other people say or believe will wear you out.
Before even going to a family event make it clear that you will not take part in anything that may cause you distress. If you are in recovery from addiction, let them know you do not want to drink. Make it clear that if the family decides they want to drink you may leave early if that is something you need to do. Let them know your dating life is off limits and you will not discuss it with them unless you decide to. Tell them that you will not discuss politics. You want to focus on the positives in your life and in theirs. Setting boundaries is an excellent way for protecting your mental well-being and your overall energy. Boundaries are a good practice to begin anyhow, particularly during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons when stress can be escalated.
If you struggle with an eating disorder, set boundaries around the family making triggering comments.
Comments around weight or food, for example. Set boundaries for the family commenting about what you eat during the meal. These boundaries can be as rigid as you feel necessary. It is important to make sure that the boundaries are ones that you can stick to. So, if you do not have a ride, leaving if they begin making comments may not be realistic. However, you can certainly remove yourself from the room or go for a walk outside. Or perhaps having a friend who is willing to pick you up if needed.
The most important aspect of setting boundaries of any kind is to be sure to clearly identify your needs. Make sure that they are strong and clear to anyone whom you are concerned may make comments. As with tip #1, be aware that some members of your family may push back. If that happens have clear boundaries in place for that as well. Such as excusing yourself from the room or the gathering if need be.
Set A Time Limit/Plan an Exit
This is especially important for those in recovery. Whether that is from addiction or from an eating disorder. If you know that you will be in triggering situations, whether people not respecting your boundaries or drinking, go to the event with a plan to only stay for a comfortable amount of time. Perhaps only for the meal. This can be as rigid or as fluid as you need it to be. If you determine you will only be there for two hours and leave that is fine. If you decide you will give it two hours and see how things play out, and then decide to stay longer, that is fine as well. But know before you arrive what your plan is and let others you trust know as well so they can handle anyone who objects.
When we talk about having an exit plan, that might be coming up with a code word with someone you either trust or someone you go with. When you begin to feel uncomfortable use the code word and make your exit. Or you may have a friend you can call to pick you up or to call you at a specific time to give you a reason to leave.
Find Common Interests
If you are at an event with family, odds are you have something in common with each of them. Center in on that one thing when in conversation to keep discussions light and gentle. It can distract from the more stressful conversations which will disrupt your peace. Additionally, it will deflect tensions. There may be some family members whom you have nothing in common with and they are always negative or always sure to comment something adverse about you. If that is the case, avoid that person. Let other family members know you want to avoid them and they can act as a buffer or help you avoid them. Just because that person is family does not mean you are obligated to talk with them. This is particularly true if doing so causes distress for you.
This will help keep you focused and level. Practicing grounding and mindfulness will help keep you from wandering off in your own mind or worse, lashing out at problem family members. There are several ways to ground yourself in a stressful situation. You can massage your hands while practicing deep breathing. Or, since you may be at the dinner table anyway, touching a utensil that is near you. Take note of how it feels against your fingers.
An easy grounding practice that has become popular is 5-step grounding. You begin taking deep breaths and find 5 things you see around you, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You can alter these as necessary depending on your surroundings. So, if you are at the dinner table, 5 things you can taste will be easier than if you are in the living room.
Begin Anxiety Treatment in Brevard County, FL
If you have particularly high levels of anxiety when it comes to seeing family during the holidays, or if you struggle with an eating disorder or an addiction and want to create a strong plan to keep your peace, contact True You Always Counseling. Our team is located in Brevard County, Florida, but offers therapy services to the entire state of Florida through telehealth. True You Always Counseling can help you determine the right boundaries for you, develop an exit strategy, and offer a safe place to process the anxiety. You can start therapy with our team by following these steps:
- Contact True You Always
- Meet with our caring therapists
- Start making the most of the holiday season.
Other Services Offered at True You Always
Anxiety treatment isn’t the only service our team offers. Here at True You Always, we offer many services with a wide range of therapists. We are here to walk alongside you no matter what you’re dealing with. Our goal is to provide a safe and accepting space for you to breathe and be your authentic self. We offer a number of additional services at our Florida practice.
You may also be interested in therapy for first responders, therapy for work stress, anxiety, and stress treatment, or PTSD treatment and trauma therapy. Additionally, we offer couples therapy, family therapy, LGBTQIA+ therapy, therapy for disordered eating, therapy for teens and tweens, support for families with a loved one struggling with ED, therapy for adults, substance use disorders, therapy for spouses of first responders, play therapy, therapy for allergies, and chronic illness. All services are offered via online therapy in Florida so you can get help from the comfort of your own space.