Family Conflict During the Holidays: How to Make Holidays Less StressfulNovember 11, 2020
The holidays are usually depicted in the media by smiling families gathered around tables, sharing gifts and sharing joy. But for most families, the holiday season looks vastly different than those holiday commercials and movies.
For many young adults dealing with difficult family situations during the holidays, this time of year can be full of high emotions and stress. Dealing with negative family members is different than dealing with a challenging friend or co-worker because we can easily become held hostage by our own emotions. When we spend time at home, we tend to fall back into routines and patterns. It is important to have an awareness not only of our family dynamics, but also of our reactions to those dynamics.
Set Boundaries: Understand what you will and will not tolerate during your family gathering. If you know that certain situations or people are triggering for you, set the boundary with your family that you will not engage in those same old arguments or interact with that toxic family member. Open up a conversation to understand their boundaries as well. When everyone is on the same page, you are better set up for success.
Have Realistic Expectations: Above we talked about how family gatherings are usually portrayed in the media. Having this unrealistic expectation for family during the holidays can set us up for disappointment.
Respond vs. React: Family may not always say or do the right thing, even when boundaries are put into place, and understanding how to respond instead of just react to a situation can be very beneficial. A reaction is based in the moment and doesn’t take into consideration long term effects of what you do or say. A reaction is survival-oriented and on some level a defense mechanism. It might turn out okay but often a reaction is something you regret later. A response on the other hand usually comes more slowly. It’s based on information from both the conscious mind and unconscious mind. A response takes into consideration the well-being of not only you but those around you. It weighs the long term effects and stays in line with your core values.
Take a Break: During family gatherings it is important to check in with yourself physically and emotionally. When you are starting to feel overwhelmed, give yourself permission to take a break. It could be taking a walk outside or going upstairs to a quiet space. Practice some stress relieving techniques, such as deep breathing or a mindfulness practice. Once you feel grounded and more comfortable, you can return to your family.
Phone a Friend: Set up a helpline before you head home for the holidays. It could be a friend who understands your family dynamics or a mental health professional who can help you navigate difficult situations as they arise. Knowing that you can always pick up the phone and speak with someone who understands can help alleviate anxiety around family gatherings.
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Many of the young adults we work with have struggled with self-doubt and fear of leaving their comfort zone. Over the course of the program, they learn how to take back control of their lives and step up confidently as leaders in a group setting. The skills they learn teach them to communicate more effectively, manage overwhelming emotions, and build strong connections with others that help them succeed in multiple areas of their lives. For more information please call (828) 457-8852.