We're taught to always stand by our family, through thick and thin, no matter what may happen between us and them, as that's what blood relations are all about. It's safe to say that everyone has seen some family drama take place, though, drama that can be heightened during stressful times of the year.
Holidays are a very common time for family stresses to run high and unsavory memories to come back to the surface. It's not a sweet present unwrapping with hot cocoa by a fireplace for everybody.
Stressful feelings surrounding holidays and family gatherings can be a sure sign that you may have suffered through some tough times as a kid. Those experiences can continue to affect you today, but it doesn't have to stay that way.
If you're ready to overcome the struggles you face thanks to childhood trauma, you can take that first step by taking this free, simple quiz that's designed to help you fully uncover the roots of what continues to poison you. Break the cycle and break free of the hurt. Click here to learn more.
The holiday season is officially entering full swing, with plenty of stores playing their Christmas song playlists and houses along every suburban street being decked out with lights. Plans are being made, and gifts are being bought. It's the most wonderful time of the year, right?
For some, that may be true, but no family is without its stressors when December comes knocking. The holidays can be an immensely stressful time, especially for those with a history of family issues. If you're looking to decrease some of the holiday stress this year, here are some steps you can take to protect your peace.
1. You're Allowed To Say "No"
Though it feels like you should be celebrating with everyone you can this time of year, you don't actually have to say yes to every invite that comes your way. It's not that you don't want to spend time with people you care about, but some invitations can pile on extra stress that you don't need.
Turning down an invitation is always okay. If the person who invited you truly cares about you, they'll understand if you can't make it, no matter the reason. Attend the events that spark joy and let the rest fade into the background. It's your holiday too, after all.
2. Don't Cook If You Don't Want To
Making a great dish for a holiday meal can be super rewarding, especially if you already love cooking. That's not everyone's passion, though, and for those who'd rather not spend hours in the kitchen this year, there are other things they can do.
You can opt to host a night, you can organize some gift giving via a secret Santa method or otherwise, you can make everyone a little souvenir, or you can bring something storebought. You won't be cast out for not wanting to cook a dish, especially if those you're spending your holidays with understand that it's not your style!
3. Decide What You Want Your Holidays To Look Like
If you're someone who enjoys the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, that's great! Let yourself buzz around and have fun with that energy. Many of us, though, cannot stand that kind of chaos and are desperate for moments of peace. That type of stress, paired with everything you have to juggle (especially if you have children), guarantees a headache. And if you're in the later chapters of life, you might have even less energy for that type of wrangling.
Really think about what level of responsibility and participation you want to have in your holiday celebrations this year. Set boundaries, do exactly what's expected of you, and nothing more. You deserve to not stretch yourself thin this year.
4. Anticipate Past Issues
Maybe past holiday gatherings have been less than fun for you, devolving into drama, fights, pettiness, or anything else. If you've had a family celebration go south before, you should maybe prepare some responses ahead of time in case history decides to repeat itself. That way, your reactions won't be spontaneous and emotional, they'll be logical and well-thought-out.
Also, don't forget that you have the power to leave any situation. You can politely excuse yourself and take a quick breather, or just pack up and head home if you're feeling uncomfortable. Sure, you may get some looks or some words about it, but you have to prioritize your peace of mind.
5. Your Family Business Is Just That, Your Business
Whether driven by idle curiosity or the urge to gossip, folks can be surprisingly nosy about holiday plans. It's crucial to remember that you're under no obligation to spill the details if you're not comfortable, especially if those details involve rather personal information about your relationship with your family.
Feel free to keep your responses as vague as you see fit. There's no need to carry any shame about whatever may be going on, but you're also not obligated to tell anyone about it. Be true to yourself and protect your boundaries when it comes to sharing personal and sensitive information.
6. Don't Worry About Social Media
'Tis the season for social media bragging, where Facebook and Instagram are filled with meticulously curated images of happiness and perfection. It's crucial to view these posts with the understanding that people only post the moments they want you to see, the idyllic ones that make them look the best.
Consider taking a break from social media this season, allowing yourself the space to embrace the authenticity of your own experiences without the filtered lens of others' seemingly perfect moments. Your holiday joy doesn't need validation through a screen.
7. Don't Get Lost In Forced Optimism
The constant barrage of holiday advertisements showcasing happy, sane, blissful families can sometimes accentuate the not-so-perfect dynamics in your own family life. It's important to remember that these commercials are just fiction, acknowledging that the holiday season can magnify issues that are easier to brush aside during the rest of the year.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should tolerate verbal abuse just because it's the festive season. You're not appointed as the family peacekeeper. Recognize your boundaries, enforce those boundaries, and put your peace of mind above all else, even in the midst of holiday expectations.
8. Brace Yourself For Gifting Issues
Money often becomes a symbolic counter in our culture, especially within families, where an individual's perceived 'worth' can be tied to the cost or opulence of a gift. Unfortunately, this dynamic is particularly disheartening in families where favoritism is openly practiced.
While it might be somewhat bearable for adults, it takes on a different weight when it involves children or grandchildren. Kids don't understand the complexity of income levels and what that means, so placing moral value on the cost of a gift means kids whose parents can only afford 'cheaper' items are left feeling bad about themselves.
If this has been a recurring issue in your family, it's crucial to address it now. Tell them that such behavior is not acceptable to you. Everyone should be grateful for any gift they get, and that's a lesson that should be passed on to children in the family, too.
This is supposed to be a happy time of year, a time where we express the gratitude we feel for the people in our lives, a time to love and be loved in return. You shouldn't ruin that for yourself by allowing your boundaries to be stomped all over by those who falsely claim to care about you.
In this joyful time of year, your own joy matters, too. By putting yourself, your peace, and your mental health first, you'll find yourself enjoying the holidays a lot more.
If you're ready and want to take even more steps towards peace in adulthood, you can start by taking this free, easy quiz that will help you discover the core of your issues. You don't have to let the past continue to haunt you, break free from its grasp today.