Well, it’s that time of year…the holidays are approaching which means spending time with family. Being a mental health professional and coming from a family of dysfunction, my heart and thoughts often go out to those from families with dysfunction, drama, and trauma. Unlike the old movies, for many, the holidays are a time of dread, frustration, sadness, and tears. If this is you, I hope that the following blog will help make your holidays more tolerable this year.
One of the most helpful things that I have learned is realizing that I have no control over people, places, or things. The only person that I have control over is myself and how I react to things. Examine what you do have control over during the holidays (http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/home-for-the-holdays-stress-tips?page=3). For me, I make a plan for when I am going to spend time with my family. First, I alleviate as much stress as possible ahead of time. I practice deep breathing and think of ways I can de-stress if needed. For example, making an excuse to get out and go somewhere, like the grocery store. I take this opportunity to take a drive and distract myself. I have a friend that I text and she provides support and humor.
Before the gathering, identify what triggers you. What are some coping skills you can practice to reduce anger, hurt, and other strong emotions (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anxiety-zen/201411/holiday-stress-dealing-family-drama-and-dysfunction).
I’m not sure where I would be without humor. Laughter is an excellent stress buster (https://bewell.stanford.edu/surviving-the-family-holiday).
Create and set clear boundaries. An article on Oprah.com, suggests setting a time limit for how long you can tolerate spending time with various family members. You could have a friend call you at a certain time to provide you with an easy exit when you have reached your limit. Another suggestion is to have a car (your own or a rental, if needed) so you aren’t dependent on a family member for transportation, in case you need to get away and take a break (http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Dealing-with-a-Dysfunctional-Family-During-the-Holidays).
I hope this blog is helpful. Feel free to share your own ways of coping with the holidays. Have a safe Thanksgiving!