Relationships

How To Enjoy The Holidays Without Your Toxic Family Members

The holidays throughout November, December, and January are special for a lot of reasons to a lot of people.

With the lights, bells, and inevitable overload of Christmas music, this time of year carries a unique atmosphere and set of emotions. When you come from a toxic family though, those feelings are not always great.

Instead of feeling merry or bright, you're overwhelmed with anxiety, stress, and more. Birthdays and other celebrations are hard enough with toxic family members, but November and December end up being the worst two months out of the whole year.

As Bradley University explains, "Holiday depression usually is associated with the holiday season, which spans from November through early January and encompasses the major holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, Kwanza and other cultural holidays.

Common symptoms of holiday depression include stress, tiredness, sadness, loss of interest in activities and feelings of isolation." Not exactly like the Hallmark movies.

However, as painful as the holidays and accompanying emotions can be, there are alternatives that can pave the way for new traditions with actual loved ones — away from the toxicity of your family.

What Are Friends For

Friend-focused holiday celebrations are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. Think about it: You can always pick your friends, but you can't pick your family.

Furthermore, as an adult, we tend to spend way more time with our friends than our family, meaning our friends arguably know us way better than our relatives.

When you come from a toxic household, you can feel completely disconnected from your family, so instead of forcing yourself to be around them for the holidays, host a celebration with the people you actually care about and share a connection with.

Pick a date that works for everyone, even if it's after the actual holiday, and start your own traditions. Whether it's watching a classic Christmas movie together or hosting a Thanksgiving potluck, do whatever truly makes you feel that holiday joy.

If you're ever stumped on what to try, remember there are always plenty of holidays ideas all over the internet — just take your pick.

Tending To Your Heart & Mind

Removing yourself from a toxic situation is an important step, but it isn't always so simple to come to terms with all the effects of toxic relatives.

Even if we don't visit them anymore, the emotional toll can still prevail and sour what would otherwise be special holiday moments. Addiction is a particularly tough element to deal with in toxic family relations.

Addiction drains families financially, emotionally, and mentally. Furthermore, addiction doesn't care if it's Hanukkah or Thanksgiving; it trumps all.

This means that equipping ourselves with the right mindset can often be the only defense we have against the toxicity that bleeds over from addiction.

As some experts put it, "When someone we love is proactively abusing his or her own life, we feel it tear into our hearts as if it were happening to us … coping with the destruction of addiction and/or an addicted loved one changes the joy of family get-togethers during the holidays, but this should not have the power to strip us of all happiness ... it is important for our health and heart that we can find gratitude in even the smallest of moments."

While it sounds cliche (and easier said than done), a lot of coping will have to come from your decision to be the bigger person and find your happiness in those unhappy situations.

It won't happen overnight and will require constant work, but no matter what, remember you are in charge now — of yourself, your emotions, and how you chose to enjoy the holidays each year.

Treat Yourself!

If dealing with your toxic family is inevitable, then at the very least allow yourself to indulge during the holidays.

Self-care is extremely important and useful when under a lot of stress or dealing with anxiety. You need to make yourself a priority, especially considering how painful this time of year can be. This could look like:

  • Saving up and finally purchasing that item you've had your eye on
  • Booking a trip to a nice and warm destination or favorite vacation spot
  • Making a reservation at your favorite restaurant (and springing for dessert or a bottle of wine)
  • Doing nothing; cancel plans, take some time off from work, and enjoy a well-deserved break

You don't have to spend a lot of money to enjoy self-care either — just give yourself a moment to be selfish and focus only on you and your needs. It's also okay to mourn the loss of your family.

You don't always have to remain steadfast and strong, and now is the time to let all those emotions out. It might not be a long-term solution to the toxicity in your life, but it can ease the pain until you find a better way to deal with your family.

At the end of the day, you can't stop the holidays from happening. It's exhausting dealing with a toxic family year round, but when the end of the year arrives, you can especially feel the weight of your family's issues.

With all that being said, that holiday feeling of togetherness, support, and comfort can be found in some unlikely places — ones that don't include your toxic family members.

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