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The holiday season is the best part of the year for some people, but for others it can stir up a lot of uncertainty. Perhaps you and your parents/guardians don’t get along or, you know that some family issues may be brought up that could result in an argument, or maybe there is someone in your family circle that makes you uncomfortable.
As the holidays draw closer, I find myself almost dreading spending days on end with my family, and what feels like no way to escape. Being around certain members of my own family causes me a lot of anxiety. This can have a lasting effect on my mental health and how I interact with other people in my life who may not understand why this period is particularly difficult for me.
After another challenging year, it’s safe to say that there are many people who are extremely excited for the quality time they get to spend with loved ones, however, many of us are left feeling drained and anxious just thinking about it.
To be honest, when your family history is complicated, the holiday period can feel extremely… isolating. Seeing other’s post about their happy families can be heartbreaking for some. Almost as if a feeling of grief washes over you, mourning what kind of family others have that you’d always wanted and deserved.
I know how difficult this period can be, and every reason for your worries are valid, so I wanted to share some tips on how to navigate these difficult boundaries in an attempt to not only help myself through yet another rough holiday period, but all of you who struggle with similar issues.
I know this seems cliché, or even like it won’t work, but checking in on yourself to see what you need in the moment can be extremely helpful to making the holidays as easy-going as they can be.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed don’t be afraid to step outside to get some fresh air or call a friend you know might be available to vent too. These things that may seem so small can lift the weight off your shoulders, even for a little bit.
If you find that you’re overthinking a lot, taking the time to write down your feelings or even processing the day’s events through your mind can help to resolve anything that leaves you feeling uncomfortable or sad.
Making a calendar or schedule of your responsibilities and obligations can help to allocate yourself some ‘me time’. When you might go on a drive or spend some time watching a movie to get your mind off anything that may be bothering you.
Doing this will allow you to be able to allocate time to help keep family members happy with your attendance without sacrificing time for yourself and your state of mind. Doing this helps to keep a balance, stopping the stress from consuming you.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re choosing activities you know will calm you down and ground you to the present moment. This looks different for everyone, make sure to evaluate what you really enjoy and try to arrange to do this at some point, it can make a world of a difference.
Families are complicated, that is a fact. For some, more than others but no matter what your family relationships and history is like, your feelings are valid. Don’t forget that.
So what do you do when your boundaries are crossed or not respected? How do you navigate making sure that they’re being respected whilst also being respectful?
You could try and bring things up in a calm manner, if someone has said or done something to hurt or offend you, try to approach things with a calm tone. You can also try speaking with your sentences saying with “I feel” such as “I feel like I’m worthless when you say these things to me” Often, people respond better and can empathise better when you speak calmly about your feelings.
You can also try removing yourself from the situation. If things are starting to get heated with another family member, it’s okay to say things like “I don’t feel like I’m in the right headspace to speak about this right now, I’m happy to talk about this later after I’ve had some time to calm down”.
I know that the holiday period can be so overwhelming and frightening but don’t forget that your feelings are valid and that you should never have to sacrifice your wellbeing and happiness to please others.
At the end of the day you have to remember that you are the most important person in your life and if attending family events is going to sacrifice your mental health and wellbeing, it is more than okay to say no or to limit your time with them. Although it can seem daunting, try explaining why you don’t feel comfortable going. Although not everyone will understand your reasoning, you’ll feel a lot better putting yourself first rather than sacrificing pieces of you to please others.
I hope that you get the love and support that you all deserve this holiday season.