Protecting Your Well-being From Toxic Relatives During the Holidays

family dinner

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on our mental health. The number of patients suffering from mental health disorders has reached an alarming rate since the global crisis started. Healthcare workers, HR practitioners, and mental health experts are responding by taking mental health first aid courses to know more about mental health issues and raise awareness at the same time.

As the holiday approaches, dinners and gatherings also play a role in affecting the well-being of family members. This can even be difficult for those with an existing mental health issue. To help you survive holiday gatherings, here are ways how to deal with difficult family members.

Prepare for Conflicts

If you often encounter conflict during family gatherings, it’s best to prepare yourself for it. But this doesn’t mean you should be looking for trouble. Instead, face the situation in a realistic way. For example, if your parents usually criticize the way you dress or your siblings often make unsolicited remarks, don’t expect these people to change their practices; simply approach these instances with humor and think about the reasons that make you love them.

Try to accept friends and family members as they are, whether they live up to all of your expectations. Put away all grievances unless there’s appropriate timing for discussion. Try to be understanding when others feel distressed or upset when something goes wrong. There’s a good chance they’re also facing the impact of holiday stress and pressure.

Protect Your Well-being

Sure, your aunt’s comments can be annoying, but they aren’t harmful at all. But if a family member makes a few damaging remarks, such as misgendering, homophobic comments, or criticisms about your weight or appearance that can be triggering, maybe it’s about time to spend the holidays somewhere else, especially if your mental health is at risk.

Your physical, mental, and emotional safety should be of utmost importance at the end of the day. If you no longer feel safe and comfortable with your family, you have the choice to take critical steps to stay away from them and be with people that can provide a supportive environment. You have the right to be yourself without compromise. It’s totally useless if you keep hiding a part of yourself when with your family and deal with hurtful comments in what is supposed to be a happy season.

The same goes for people who suffered abuse from a family member. If possible, avoid attending gatherings where the abuser will be present. You may also check in about how you feel if they’re around. If it’s making you uncomfortable, have a friend or family member on standby to provide support when you experience a severe emotional reaction. It would also help to make time for self-care and do mindfulness exercises before and after meeting an abusive family member.

For the next holidays, give yourself a favor and minimize your contact with your family if being with them would only harm your mental well-being.

family gathering

Change Your Attitude

Preparing for possible conflicts during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to anticipate the gathering will be another emotional storm. This kind of outlook can worsen your stress and anxiety before the actual gathering begins. Instead of thinking about what could negatively happen, embrace behaviors to help reduce anxiety. Before the gathering, do relaxing activities, such as meditation, doing yoga, or listening to calming music.

More importantly, always focus on the positive side of things. If you’re anticipating the presence of a rude family member, try to think about the things you like about them instead of focusing on the negative. By the time you meet them, your anxiety and stress level won’t be as worse than before, which can help you be more considerate and respond thoughtfully to their annoying actions. Focusing on the positives about your family when you feel stressed by them will train you to become more grateful for the people you have in your life.

If you’re really having a hard time doing this, set boundaries and look after yourself. Devote your time and attention to making the holidays the best season despite the frustrating circumstances. There are still plenty of events where you’ll cross paths with your family, so use this time to practice gratitude and acknowledge that some things are beyond your control.

Final Thoughts

The holidays are one of the perfect seasons to spend more time with friends and family, but it’s not always the case for people who have family members causing them stress and anxiety. But it’s important not to let family occasions fill you with dread. In the end, it’s all about some positive thinking and a little planning to find joy and peace within yourself.


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