Tackling Difficult Family Dynamics During the Holiday Season

The leaves are changing, the morning bite is nearing, and fall is in plain sight. These are the early signs of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here, and we will be shopping for the perfect Christmas gift for our family members. For some, this is the most exciting time of the year because they can see family and for others, this can be a very challenging time of year. Challenges during this time of year exist for many reasons. They may exist as a result of the death of a family member, disagreements with your family because of your lifestyle choices, dealing with a sibling that you have not spoken to since the previous holiday season or hearing from that aunt who consistently inquiries about your marital status.

Maneuvering uncomfortable family dynamics during the holiday season can be tough.  We are often swamped with taking care of others during this time that we forget that we are just as important as our family members, co-workers, and friends. So, if the holiday season is approaching and you are worried about how to handle things, take a look at some of the tips below for some great ideas on conquering the holiday season with challenging family dynamics.

Plan Ahead

Planning will prevent surprises so that you will know what to expect, during the season or before your arrival to an event.  This will give you the opportunity to decline any invitations that you are not comfortable with or plan for gatherings that maybe challenging. If you are an individual who struggles with socializing, gatherings can be a bit much. Ensure that you have a plan in place to take breaks when needed and also to avoid unwanted questions or situations that may surface during this time. 

Stay Focused 

It can be challenging to stay focused on the occasion when you are still hurt about something that happened months or years ago, but you must. Stay focused on the fact that you are present to celebrate with your family, not resolve a conflict with your sister. If you are uncomfortable being in the same room, mingle with family members who are outside or in another place to avoid unwanted contact or discussion. Keep some space between you and the stressors. 

Establish Boundaries

Determine in advance your budget during the holiday and what family events you will attend. The pressure of the holidays can create exhaustion, sleeplessness, and cause regression. It can also cause financial stressors as well. These things can ultimately lower your body’s natural defenses, creating fatigue and burnout. Create boundaries and pace yourself so that you can prevent exhaustion and sustain your momentum during the holiday season.

Keep a Routine 

The holidays can be a new terrain for many things that are happening within a family system. During this time of the year, we tend to get out of our regular routines, and that includes methods that lower stress levels. Ensure that you maintain your routine during the holidays. Stay in your exercise routine, eat regular meals, and ensure that you are getting the proper rest. These things help lower your stress levels and helps you become more tolerable of new family dynamics and helps you navigate uncomfortable situations well.

Practice Patience

Keep in mind that everyone will not agree 100% of the time, and dealing with change is unique to each individual. If death touched your family this year, it could be difficult for some family members to deal with the holiday season. Consider doing a memorial to help soothe those feelings or consider having a small discussion with the family before the gathering and discuss practical ways to handle the change. Understand that where you are during this holiday season can be different from those around. Practice patience and create opportunities to take a break when feeling overwhelmed. 

Plan A Community Service Event

Giving back to others can decrease tension that may be present in a family. Consider planning a community service event for the family. This fosters the ability to focus on the present and why the holidays exist. When you are focused on other things, you are less likely to focus on your current family dynamics and doing something positive will increase your overall mood. 

During the holiday season, many things happen, both positive and negative. The reality is you can only control you. Therefore,  you must ensure that you are taking excellent care of yourself in the process. Recognize the things that trigger you during the holidays. Plan in advance just in case these things come up. This holiday season, lower your stress levels and enjoy time with your family by utilizing and practicing the self-care tips above. Happy Holidays!

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