I never really knew why Christmas movies made me feel more sad than cheery until I was in my twenties. It took me a long time to realize that the way the holidays are portrayed on TV and in movies are so unrealistic and that I wasn’t the only one who felt it was very different than the reality of my own holiday experiences. In my family the holidays were always complicated. There was always someone not talking to another, an argument, or the aftermath of an argument lingering in the air. If the holidays are not cheery and bright or perfect because you deal with toxic family members, coworkers, or friends, you’re not alone. But there are things you can do to make the holiday season easier or at least better. You can take back the joy of the holidays. Here are seven ways to deal with toxic people during the holidays.
1. Plan your exit:
If you really want to attend a family gathering but there’s a chance you’ll bump into or have to talk to someone you’d rather avoid, make sure to plan your exit beforehand. According to an article on Oprah.com, “Prior to the event, think through various boundary options until you come up with a scenario that makes you feel comfortable. Would you be more enthusiastic about a get-together if you planned to leave after no more than four hours? Or three? Two? One? Would you breathe easier if you rented a car so that you could get away without relying on relatives for transportation? Would it help to have a friend call you on your cell phone halfway through the evening, providing an excuse for a graceful exit?” Don’t feel pressured to stay longer than you are comfortable staying.
2. Remember, you’re not there to fix anyone:
As hard as it may be to not defend your position on a particular subject or to explain to someone why their questions or statements are upsetting you, remember that you cannot and should not try to change someone. The only person you are in control of is yourself. Whenever someone says something that upsets you, you are allowing them to control your emotions and feelings. If someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer or makes a statement that is rude, change the subject or excuse yourself to get a drink, food, or to use the restroom. Do not give them attention or time.
3. Stay busy:
Find something to do that will keep you busy like cooking, cleaning, running errands, entertaining the kids, or making drinks. You’ll still get to be a part of the gathering/event but having something to do can help you stay away from anyone you are trying to avoid and also makes the time go by faster.
4. Ask for reinforcements:
Admitting that the holidays are hard for you can help you feel better but it can also encourage others to help. If you feel comfortable talking to others about your issues with toxic family members/people during the holiday, perhaps they can help things go more smoothly. Is there a topic that you think people should avoid? Is there someone who usually drinks too much? Setting up a plan with others that are supportive can help you feel more at ease.
5. Don’t aim for perfect:
If your expectations are high and you’re hoping for a perfect holiday season, you’re likely to be disappointed. Don’t be fooled by social media or movies, the holidays are not perfect for everyone. Figuring out or navigating the holidays is tricky and it takes time to find what works best for what ever situation you’re dealing with. Make small changes and hope for the best.
6. Find something to be thankful for:
Focus your energy on the things or people you are thankful for. Be happy that you get to eat a nice meal, you’re able to cook, or that you have a place to live. According to an article on Scarymommy.com, “Studies show that gratitude is a major happiness booster. Also, feeling grateful toward someone crowds out emotions like resentment and annoyance. Wait, you might be thinking, these strategies don’t tell me how to deal with my difficult relatives—they tell me how to behave myself. Well, guess what! You can’t change what your difficult relatives are going to do; you can only change yourself. But when you change, a relationship changes.”
7. Switch up your tradition:
If the way you’ve been doing things isn’t working, it’s time for a change. Perhaps attend just one or a few of the events you are invited to. You could also try throwing an event of your own during the holiday or after the holidays. Another option? If you simply do not feel happy about attending gatherings during the holidays, perhaps start a new tradition like staying in or going on vacation. And remember, a friendsgiving is always an option too.
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How do you deal with toxic people during the holidays?