Oh, the holidays. Some people really look forward to spending quality time with their families, but others really struggle to make it through feeling disconnected and alone, even in a room full of people.
Whether or not you have great relationships with the people you spend the holidays with, we can all use some tips on how to get through interactions with family members during a stressful time of year.
Expect your buttons to be pushed, hard
Our families know us better than anyone. This is both a blessing and a curse. You know that someone is going to bring up something really embarrassing that you once did. When this happens, take a deep breath and then take another one and repeat to yourself in your head as much as you need to, “I will get through this.”
Get comfortable with reflecting and accepting
Feelings of sadness or regret can resurface around people or relationships that we have lost. Times of togetherness can often bring up negative feelings about the people who are no longer with us for a variety of reasons. Maybe you lost someone because you ended a relationship or maybe someone has passed away.
The holidays are often filled with memories both good and bad. The time of year alone can bring up regret and sadness. Be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge the feelings and then reflect on why they’ve surfaced. Talk it out with someone that you trust, like your therapist.
Understand That They’re Human, Just like You
This is important all of the time, but especially during this time of year. Have some compassion for yourself and those around you. The members of your family are doing the best that they can. Not everyone has good emotional awareness. Not everyone has done the work that they need to do to heal relational wounds.
Remind yourself of this: The people that you look up to and who have potentially disappointed you, learned what they could from the generations before them. Try to understand what your family has gone through from their perspective. You might be surprised what you find.
Look to Your Confidant
Hopefully you have at least one person in your family that you can look to across the table and share a glance with. Maybe that’s your significant other, a sibling or a cousin. If you don’t have one of these people to share the family chaos with, make a plan to check in with a friend after the family celebration to compare notes. Sometimes it helps to have someone else to laugh, commiserate or cry with.
Accept Your Given Family and Appreciate Your Chosen Family
No matter what your relationship is like with your family of origin, make sure to spend time with and create some memories with your friends and coworkers. They are the ones who are around you and supporting you in your daytoday life. You’ve chosen them to walk along this path with you. Put your time and energy into appreciating these relationships.
You Might Feel Lonely and That’s Okay
No matter what time of year it is, you might feel waves of loneliness. However, loneliness can increase around the holidays. This is normal and also okay. Be mindful of turning to unhealthy things to comfort you, like eating or drinking too much. Numbing the pain won’t make it go away. Instead, utilize journaling to help identify what may have triggered the loneliness. Do something that helps you feel like you’re really taking care of yourself: go for a walk, dance to some music, or call a friend.
The Grass is Greener When You Tend to It
There are some people who have great relationships with their families. You do not have any idea what their struggles have been or the personal work that they’ve done to get where they are. Please don’t compare their social media accounts to your life. You’re not being fair to yourself. Resist the urge to compare your real life struggles to the scripted, edited, filtered and seemingly perfect world on the screen.
There is always something to be grateful for. A home cooked meal, a shared smile between strangers, a roof over your head or even the ability to read this blog post as you have internet access and are literate. Gratitude helps us to remember all of the things that we have and can help us appreciate this time of year.
The most important thing to remember is to take good care of yourself during this time of year. We’re here for you at Talkspace. We’ve got a great team of therapists waiting to help you.