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How to Survive Your Toxic Family Over the Holidays

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Family is complicated—a fact that’s never more apparent than this time of year, a time of mandatory family gatherings and forced dinnertime conversations. If the thought of dealing with a very nosy auntie or rude cousin makes you want to avoid family gatherings altogether, there are ways to save the holidays that won’t prevent you from seeing your loved ones altogether.

How to set (and maintain) healthy boundaries.

Before meeting your family, it is important to take some time to identify what is acceptable to you and what is not. “What are you willing to accept, and what are you not willing to accept?” Scott Lyon, clinical psychologist and author of the book addicted to drama, Given how chaotic family visits can be, it can help to think ahead of time and communicate this to family members.

Lyons also recommends pacing yourself, which includes taking regular breaks and making sure to get enough sleep. “It takes some time to adapt to your family’s rhythm and pace,” Lyons said. “We are generally more sensitive until we find our rhythm with them.” If a family member violates boundaries, it’s even more important to take some time for yourself to regroup before reconnecting with them.

If your family is particularly tired, it may also help to think about how much time you can spend with them, what your tolerance level is, and whether it’s possible to leave early or head to a hotel or friend’s house. Plan your journey according to where you want to spend the night.

How to Avoid Reverting to Childhood Behavior

If you have to feel (and act) like your third grader again when someone comes home, you’re not alone. This is called reappraisal, Lyons said, and it’s a common way to react to being home again. Basically, we are so used to thinking and acting a certain way around family that being around them tends to revert to our old habits and behaviours.

“Until we’ve done diligent work with our families to break the cycle of our behavior patterns, it’s as if we’re stuck in a time capsule,” Lyons said. “When we return to a familiar environment or relationship, that time capsule is activated; Our family member’s voice, certain behavior or smell will pull us back to similar memories. When it comes to falling back into these old patterns of behavior, it helps to be mindful of them.

How to deal with negative comments from family members

If a family member is being particularly negative, Lyons recommends recognizing that often, it’s not about you, but a reflection of their own fears and insecurities.

If you find yourself in this situation, he advises you to prioritize your well-being and take care of yourself, just as you would in the case of a physical injury. “It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t like it,’ or ‘Maybe you have good intentions, but the way it was said doesn’t sound good,'” Lyons said.

How to recover from a difficult family trip

If you’ve just returned from a difficult family trip, Lyons recommends taking a moment to de-stress: Exercise, schedule a phone call with a friend or therapist, take the time to list what what was Good Think about visiting family, or spending some time with your chosen family. As Lyons points out, it’s important to acknowledge and normalize the fact that visiting family can be challenging, and that you’re doing the best you can to navigate a difficult situation.

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