Tips with Trish

Dear Trish,

I am dreading going home for Christmas. Thanksgiving was stressful.  My mom drinks too much and the rest of the family pretends that it’s not a big deal.  My dad avoids things, my siblings and I are on edge and the extended family has all of these expectations and a million questions.  It’s like an interrogation.  I love these people but feel overwhelmed by the idea of having to spend several days with them.  I wish I could just stay here at Loras. It’s so sad.

Signed,

Burdened by Family

 

Trish says,

As a society we are programmed to think that the holidays are the best time of the year. Unfortunately, this is not the case for some of us. In fact, the huge hype about the “most wonderful time of the year” makes those of us with loss, family issues and financial stress actually feel kind of crappy. Families are complicated and many adult children dread the prospect of being with family over the holidays. Whether it be because of unresolved feelings from childhood, pressure from others regarding achievements, or the inappropriate behavior of others, reuniting with family can be tense.

Something to consider to help with the stress is to start strategizing now before setting foot in your hometown. It is especially hard when loved ones have issues with substances. It can be especially annoying or down right embarrassing when someone drinks too much, especially if it is a common occurrence. You can try to talk to your mom before the festivities and let her know that you may be checking out early if the drinking becomes a problem. If this is too hard, just do it and don’t feel like you have to give her an explanation.

Think about other conversations that may be difficult as well. Consider how you will respond to sensitive subjects. When family asks you why you haven’t got a girlfriend yet – be prepared to say something clever like, “I’m not sure there is a girl ready to take on a great guy like me.” Or if you’re brave enough, be honest and say, “My relationships are my business. I would be happy to talk to you about my college experience.” Invent a few canned retorts so you are ready.

Visualizations can also be helpful. Picture yourself inside a bubble, with an invisible layer protecting you from the toxic words of others. Watch them bounce off as you maintain your pleasant state inside. Another thing to help you refrain from saying something that may exacerbate problems is to practice mindfulness. When someone says something, wait a few seconds before responding and take note of your surroundings or how you are feeling in your body. Try not to emit your own toxic emotions into the environment. Or better yet, excuse yourself and walk outside or call a friend.

Lastly, consider bringing/wearing a calming object that will help center you when times become tense. To give me an extra shot of strength to make it through certain family functions, I carry a rock in my pocket that reads “strength.” A cross neckless or rosary bracelet can help too as it can provide a necessary distraction. I also have a spinner ring that helps me when I’m feeling anxious and reminds me that I am in charge of my own emotions and can choose peace.

Hope these ideas help so you can find some positives in being with family this holiday season.

Signed,

Trish

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