Christmas time is here! Merry Christmas to all you folks out there in Murrieta, Temecula and the entire Inland Empire. I hope today will bring you lots of happiness, and all the warm and fuzzy feelings.
But for some people, Christmas time is not so warm and fuzzy. Christmas time brings painful memories of family woes. No matter what type of family you were raised in, understand that it is possible to still have a happy, healthy life-there are just a few boundaries you can set.
Here are some ways you can begin to manage a difficult family:
1) Decide what you want: If you have a toxic family, you'll know it. They leave your self esteem lower than ever, you don't want to open up to them about personal areas of your life, they're judgmental, your heart races every time you go to visit them, you hold back tears when you're in their presence, and you breathe a sigh of relief when the festivities are over. If you nodded your head to the above statements, chances are your family is either really difficult or toxic.
If majority of your holidays end in disappointment, you must decide if it's worth it to sacrifice your precious days off to be with your family. Perhaps you'd do better if you spend the holidays alone or with people who actually fill you with joy. Although it's a tough decision to make, decide what you want and stick to your decision. This is important for those days when you're feeling guilty for not spending all your time with them.
2) Challenge the overt or covert messages they've sent you: Many people who are in a dysfunctional family, have no clue how much their family has harmed them emotionally. Spend some time thinking about some of the negative things your family members have said and done. Once you've thought them out, write out about 5 of them. Next to each one, write out how that event has made you feel about yourself. For example, if every time you see your dad, he talks about how much weight you've gained, your dad's statements might have made you think to yourself, "I'm fat."
Now remember, because your family members say something doesn't mean it's true. If your dad talks about your weight all the time, you do not have to change the way you look just to suit him. If the message you've been telling yourself is "I'm fat," come up with another, more realistic message to counter it. Such as "I am beautiful just the way I am" or "I love the way my body looks." It'll take a while for your brain to catch up with your heart, but say these more realistic statements over and over again.
3) Create some space: Many of us were raised with the idea that every holiday must be spent with family. But what happens if your family holidays are perpetually sad or filled with arguments? Then it might be time to find someone new to spend the holiday with. A few weeks before the holidays, let your family know that you'll be going elsewhere to celebrate. Yes they might yell, they might be offended and they might clutch their pearls, but if you do this every year, they'll eventually get the message and get used to your new plan. You cannot please everyone.
You can also create space by limiting communication with them. Avoid contentious topics, reduce the number of calls you make to them, and just try to keep the conversation civil and light. The goal is to keep your mental space stress free and as positive as possible.
Another way to do it is to do a drive by Christmas with your family, and then spend a longer period of time with someone who brings you joy. So you could choose to spend an hour with your family, and then spend the rest of the day with more cheerful, positive people. That way you only have to take your family in small doses and your entire holiday isn't ruined.
4) Remind yourself why you're doing all this: When you start to create some space, the backlash will begin. Remind yourself why you have to do it. If you remain in the toxic environment, it WILL drag you down. But if you hold on to your boundaries, work on your mindset and surround yourself with positive people, your Christmas will go off without the usual frustration and tears.
Ready to learn how to maneuver a difficult or even toxic family? I love to help women and engaged couples in Murrieta figure out how to create lives that are anxiety free. Click here to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation. You could also call me at 951-905-3181.