Whilst we all look forward to spend time with family during Christmas and new year, we need to remember that the holiday seasons can be a very stressful and triggering time. Not all family gatherings are about love, sharing, bonding, connection, caring and having the sense of belonging. Some family members can be toxic.
Do you dread family gathering because of your dysfunctional family. Dysfunctional families are usually codependent and toxic. Family gatherings can have strict rules where everyone is expected to obey blindly and follow family traditions. There is no room for healthy discussions and openness.
The key to navigate challenging family gatherings is self awareness. Be aware of your own triggers and what will you allow and what you will no longer allow. To avoid being met with criticism, shame and judgement, it is important to prepare yourself first. Empower yourself by practicing self care and meeting your own needs. When your needs are met, you don’t look for others to validate and approve of you.
Take small but important steps to be authentic and true to yourself:
-Say no to family gatherings you don’t want to go to
-Honour your physical boundaries; no kissing or hugging if you don’t feel comfortable
-Don’t take anything personally. Remember hurt people hurt others.
-Take back your power and stand up for yourself
-Don’t feel pressurised to buy expensive gifts to feel accepted
-No contact with that drunk uncle who wants to touch you or that toxic aunty who wants all the juicy gossips.
-Be ok to share only what you comfortable with sharing
-Stop being the people pleaser
-Go outside or another room when you feel overwhelmed. Breathe deeply, stretch, and reconnect with yourself
-Communicate how you feel respectfully
-Stay away from topics like religion, politics and gossips
-Do not overstay especially after most family members are drunk and rowdy
-Do what’s best for your mental and emotional well being-even if that means excusing yourself and leaving early.
-Respond rather than react. Pause before you respond after being triggered.
-If others disagree with you, respect their opinions. It is not about winning the argument. Agree to disagree
-If painful childhood memories come up, connect and love your inner child
-Put your needs first- need to feel safe, to be loved, accepted, seen and heard.
-Seek a therapist who can help you feel all your emotions. It is time you stop burying them.
It takes courage to break the cycle and put yourself first.