Surviving Holidays With Family

Surviving Holidays With Family

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By Emily Stone

The holiday season is upon us and whether you will stay near or go far, chances are that you will be spending time with loved ones. For some that means a small, close knit group of friends. For others it is a large, hardy gathering of extended family members. For the rest of us it is somewhere in between.  No matter what the type or size of gathering, many people indicate that navigating family dynamics can be challenging at best and incredibly painful at worst.

The holiday season has a way of bringing family together with a level of intensity that magnifies various issues. Disagreements around religion, politics and relationships put the best communication skills to the test. So what is a person to do? How do you stay healthy in the midst of these hard situations?

  1. Listen to your body. Trust your own internal compass of care. Pay attention to when you need to push and when you need to pace with yourself. There may be times that you decide it is worth enduring some discomfort to receive the gains of connection. Other times, you will decide that the toll the discomfort it puts on your body, mind and emotions is not worth the expense.
  2. Pay attention to your expectations. From Pinterest to Hallmark, a myriad of influences will dictate your picture of what the holidays “should” look like. There is no “should”. There really aren’t. The Holidays really can be whatever you want it to be. Find your own rhythm and rituals. Simple can be the sweetest.
  3. Notice any tendency to catastrophize. The reality is that the holidays would not be the same without the mishaps and awkward moments. Listen to your body, take time off from exhausting situations, and learn to normalize and laugh at some of the drama. There really is hilarity in the ridiculousness of it all.
  4. Avoid temptations to speak for others. Extra stress means that there will be extra opportunities for people to be more sensitive than usual, to act out, to get upset, to need to vent…perhaps to YOU. You might feel a pull to speak for others…to be the “go between”. These triangles can weave quite a web of drama. You can be an empathic, good listener (if it doesn’t feel overwhelming for you)…and not get involved.
  5. Remember that you aren’t twelve anymore. You have grown up. You have a wise, centered self that help you protect the hurt, scared, overwhelmed child parts of you that have been hurt through the years. Likewise, the people around you are not the same age as they were when you were little. People grow and change. We can learn to listen to our hurt parts of our self without leading from them. Sometimes that means going. Sometimes that means staying. The important part is cultivating a respect for what your wise, centered self knows you need.

Making it through the holiday season in one piece means getting as much support as possible. A good therapist can help you navigate these difficult spaces in a way that honors your own hopes and values.

Need additional help with navigating difficult situations during family holiday gatherings? You can contact us to make a counseling appointment, if you feel the need to prepare for this hectic time of year. Additionally, you can read about family counseling and personal growth counseling on our dedicated pages for more information.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash