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5 Tips For Surviving the Holidays With a Dysfunctional Family

Robyn White

The holidays are coming up. A time for laughter, relaxing, feeling thankful and mainly, spending time with loved ones. Or so it would seem in the movies.

In reality, the Christmas blues affect many of us that go home to dysfunctional families and instead of feeling relaxed after a busy semester, you end up feeling more stressed and irritated than when you were batting out that term paper at 3AM. And so, with Christmas, often comes a myriad of mental health issues and a resurgence of old wounds that you’d rather forget.

While the love we have for our families may be very real, the stress and anxiety that comes with spending weeks in their company can sometimes be a real struggle.

So, we’ve come up with a few top tips on how to deal with those holiday blues and safeguard your mental health when spending Christmas time with a dysfunctional family.

Don’t put pressure on yourself

At this time of year, we are supposed to be having a holly jolly time, so what do you do when the atmosphere at home is anything but merry?

Don’t put pressure on yourself if you find yourself feeling down or anxious, rather, accept the way you are feeling and work from there. Don’t try to force yourself to feel emotions that just aren’t natural.

Give yourself space

A common problem for all college students during the holiday season is the sudden lack of freedom that comes with being back home. And when there is extended family around every corner, it can be even harder to find time to yourself.

However, when dealing with feelings that come with having a dysfunctional family, it’s even more important to take some time out. Offering to do small tasks that get you out the house or taking yourself on walks will help clear your head and sneak some alone time into the hectic weeks.

Don’t have expectations

Don’t use the holidays as time for healing old wounds or expecting change, but for acceptance and taking joy in the simple things.

While many of us wish for the holidays to look like a Hallmark movie, the reality is often different. You’ll find the whole season to be more enjoyable if you practise acceptance for your situation and experience pleasant surprises that you weren’t expecting throughout the holidays.

Confide in someone

Arrange to keep in contact with a friend during the holidays. Keeping in contact with a friend from college for example, can help you keep in touch of your own life and stop you getting sucked into the whirlwind of family dysfunction. Telling them about a particularly irritating family dinner can relieve pressure and may also help you laugh at the situation. You can even debrief with a member of the family who you find gets you better than others, and agree to have each others back.

Be an individual

If you feel pressure to impress your family, do your best to let it go. At the end of the day, you’ll find the holidays go a lot smoother when you are at peace with yourself and stop trying to impress the unimpress-able. Remember that you still have value if your family doesn’t appreciate you, and keep in touch with people from outside the family to help you feel more grounded.

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