How to survive holidays in the family

Published on December 9, 2020 by Cori Grămescu

Holidays mean shared time with your loved ones but if that time is less comfortable for you, I have some suggestions for your behavior and eating habits for those days.

While it is true holidays in the family can be tough because of what is socially expected from them – joyfulness and happiness, times when families come together and the feeling that everything has to be perfect – it is in your power to keep it together! Just don’t give in to your emotions and try to cultivate a sense of compassion and understanding while staying aware of your surroundings and people around you!

Finding a good compromise when spending time with the family

As winter holidays approach, many of us start feeling the anxiety of meeting their extended families. We are not children anymore, yet being back home, surrounded by parents, aunts and cousins manage somehow to make us feel small and helpless, as if some magic dust turns us into 10 years olds again.

Reuniting with our families can be stressful for many people for reasons that unconsciously follow us through the years as most of us hide or deepen the pain provoked by whatever family issues might lie there. We turn to our younger selves as soon as we walk in our childhood homes and we feel possessed by a sort of power we can’t really explain.

It doesn’t necessarily has to be this way because there are tips and tricks to help us survive holidays in the family. Before letting you know about some of them, just remember that, in fact, you are not a child anymore and, as a grown up, you have your own voice and boundaries, and no one can push you around if you don’t allow it.

Keep the conversation simple

There is a famous saying, ‘Never talk about politics and religion if you don’t want to ruin a conversation‘. This goes for family meetings, too. The idea is simple: just keep the conversation casual and don’t get into any subject that might detonate a bomb. A contradictory conversation, especially with people you know very well and know their opinions are highly different from yours, can escalate quickly and turn into a war of words. So the best is to just not go there and whenever you sense such a conversation might occur, just make sure to switch direction and jump into another subject such as, ‘This cake is delicious, how did you make it?’

Don’t take it personally

The way people act doesn’t say anything about you, it just says all about them. So, anytime your dad starts suggesting you might eat less or workout more because you’ve gained weight, just hold your horses, breath in and breath out, and answer diplomatically, ‘Thank you for being concerned with my well-being.’ Even if such a remark makes you feel young, judged and unloved, keep in mind that oftentimes family does want the best for you, but their communication skills just suck.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries

If you can’t put on a smile or simply ignore when your family starts gossiping your existence, setting boundaries is the answer. No one should discuss your life and have opinions about it as if it is a school literature text up for review. Whenever you feel under the spotlight and their comments and questions trigger the hell out of you, just breath in heavily and then breath out and stop the judgement of your parents, aunts and uncles by simply saying, ‘This is none of your business!` Don’t go into further explaining why you don’t want your life, your looks, your choices being debated, it is your right to not feel like you’re in front of the Medieval Inquisition during Christmas time or any other time for that matter.

Accept family members as they are

How many times didn’t you wish to just have some other family that would understand you and accept the way you are? I know I did lots of times! It was when I was young and felt helpless and all I wanted was to fell loved no matter what. In time, I understood that you can’t really change people and based on their own experiences, just like yourself, they see life differently and this is where the clash happens. Just embrace your family as it is and look at them with compassion, the kind you wished they had given to you when you were a child and you were struggling with growing up and finding out who your true self is.

Don’t overindulge in alcohol and food

When we feel stressed, we look for shelter in things that don’t really help us in any way, things such as alcohol or food. It is sometimes hard to cope with family reunions and a strong will to keep it cool might not always work. So, when emotions become a rollercoaster, we lose our focus and we try to find anchors in whatever soothes us. Even if alcohol and food bring some sort of comfort because they give us pleasure, overindulging will only make us regret our choice in the long run and by the end of our meeting with our family we will only feel worse.

Look for moments that make you happy

There is a ray of light in the darkest hours! No matter how bad you might feel about getting together with your family, setting goals before stepping into your childhood home might make a big difference. Just visualize yourself as being calm and centered and enjoy the small things while you’re with your family: a cup of warm tea while watching a movie that you like, reconnecting with childhood friends you left behind and talking to them on the phone or taking a long walk in the neighborhood you used to know and love so much when you were younger.

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