Surviving the Holiday Season with Difficult Family Dynamics

Generally, the holiday season brings up different emotions for different people. For some, the holiday season is a joyous time to reconnect with family and friends, observe religious practices, or reflect on the year behind them. For others, the holidays may bring up feelings of loneliness, grief, anxiety, or frustration. Whether you are coping with the loss of a loved one, struggling with your mental health, or don’t get along with your family members, there are ways to keep yourself grounded this holiday season.

To start, one way to cope with your anxious thoughts is to create a game plan. First, identify situations that may be triggering. Is there a family member who feels the need to comment on what others are eating, or their weight? Or maybe you have a family member with strong opinions that do not align with your own. Preparing to deal with these comments in advance may lessen your anxiety. If you have a therapist or trusted friend, perhaps ask them to role-play one of these situations with you.

You may be asking yourself, what about my family members who can not be reasoned with? Managing your expectations may ease your emotional response. Maybe you have a family member who particularly enjoys arguing, or maybe they diminish your feelings when you voice them. Here the most effective solution may be to manage your expectations of them and limit interaction to the best of your ability. When in doubt, take a moment away from the crowd to practice mindful breathing.

Ultimately it is important to protect your peace and honor your truth. Remind yourself that is okay to feel all of your emotions instead of ignoring them. If you are experiencing grief, allow yourself to grieve. If you are experiencing sadness, let yourself feel sad. Listen to your mind and body, take breaks when necessary, and remember that difficult emotions will eventually pass.

What will you be doing to keep yourself grounded this holiday season? How do you communicate with difficult family members?

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: We look forward to talking to you!

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