All families have drama, and let’s be real there is such a thing as too much time together. Sadly, the holidays can be the perfect storm for many who are already on edge as a result of all the pressures we have this time of year to (1) find the right gifts for family and friends, (2) distribute the correct amount in bonuses and tips to our employees or service providers, and (3) make an appearance at all the necessary events/gatherings. Given all these challenges, try to set limits with others to ensure that you don’t spend more time, money or energy than you are comfortable with– remember it’s a good thing to have boundaries.
Unfortunately, our relatives are often the best at triggering us, so try being proactive vs. reactive. Knowing that some difficult questions might come up, try to problem solve ahead of time by coming up with a canned answer that is polite but firm. For example, if you don’t want to discuss something, either say “I appreciate your concern, but this is still a raw subject for me” or “I’m not ready to talk about this now, but I will circle back to you when I am.” If you rehearse these types of answers beforehand, then there is much less of a chance you will say something harsh in the heat of the moment.
Another key coping skill during the holidays is to carve out some time for yourself, and don’t let anyone guilt trip you because you want some time alone. There’s no need to apologize or feel badly about wanting some time to decompress by yourself, just know that it’s solely up to you to speak up when you need a break to go recharge your batteries. Here are some great excuses to do just that: take a long walk or bike ride, do some yoga, play some tennis or a round of golf, or maybe just go into a separate room to read or take a nap. The key is to specify what you are doing and how long you’ll be gone.
Some years you may need accept that it’s just going to be less than ideal. Keep in mind that situations are fluid within families. In prior years, I would jump at the opportunity to see my family, but this year let’s just say we’ve had more than our fair share of drama, and I’ve had to accept that more time needs to pass before we can coordinate another reunion. Luckily, most familial wounds do heal over time, and in the meantime you can appreciate the wisdom in the saying that friends are the family we choose.
If for some reason despite employing all these coping tactics you still find yourself in a heated situation during the holidays, I urge you to take a deep breath and avoid saying something you might later regret. When provoked, before you blurt out a response ask yourself these 3 questions: 1) is it kind? 2) is it necessary? 3) is it true? If the statement does not pass this three-prong test, then keep your mouth shut.
Remember this, you will never regret taking the high road. Don’t take the bait and get sucked into family drama. Instead, I encourage you to quietly resign from toxic situations and give yourself the gift of peace and joy. No one else can do that for you, it’s a personal choice and a perfect way to close out 2022.
By Regina A. DeMeo