Five Things to Remember When Dealing with Toxic Family Members This Holiday Season
Behavioral Health
December 04, 2019
Five Things to Remember When Dealing with Toxic Family Members This Holiday Season

Whether you’re the kind that counts down the days until the family gathering at grandma’s house or you make excuses then book the first flight out of town, the holidays can be stressful.

AAA estimated that more than 50 million Americans travel 50+ miles over Thanksgiving weekend, while more than 105 million hit the road between December 23 and January 1. All that travel and togetherness with family is sure to increase levels of stress, not to mention the anxiety some people feel knowing they’ll be spending the holidays around toxic relatives.

We connected with Rebecca Hardy, licensed professional counselor on the staff at Texas Health Springwood Behavioral Health, to get her best tips on remaining sane during the holiday season:

  1. Easy does it. Put “jettison perfectionism” as No. 1 on your To-Do List.
  2. Prioritize by evaluating your most-loved holiday traditions and planning ahead to determine how you will include them in celebrations this year.
  3. Be flexible. The holiday season comes around every year and spontaneity can be fun. Rigid rules are usually not your friend!
  4. Don’t put yourself in the position of trying to please everyone and be careful of overpromising.
  5. Slow things down and be mindful of the meaning behind the season. Make a gratitude list each day.

It can be tempting to put too much focus on the few (or several) relatives who always seem to drive you crazy, but Hardy says it’s important to practice self-care before and during the holidays to keep your sanity.

“Keep the focus on good self-care basics and a positive attitude,” she says. “Get enough rest and eat well. Take a walk. Exercise. Listen to your favorite holiday music. Call a friend and laugh. Organize reasonably and expect the unexpected.

“Remember that a good way to interact with family is to let everyone feel valued, included and important. Who likes to cook? Who bakes well? Who likes to clean up or play games with the kids? Thinking about people’s strengths will help you get into the mindset of seeing the best in your family and enlist those strengths instead of focusing on the annoying quirks.”

If all else fails and you just don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to deal with toxic relatives this year, Hardy recommends shaking things up.

“It’s perfectly acceptable to make a new decision for this year, if necessary,” she says. “Some people opt to go on a trip, volunteer at a shelter, spend the holiday with friends or work a holiday shift. The choices are endless and there are times when you just need to do things in a new way. Remember, this too shall pass.”

The holidays can be a difficult time for some. If you or someone you know is struggling this holiday season, visit Texas Health Behavioral Health or call the help line at 682-236-6023, which is available 24/7.

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