As Thanksgiving creeps upon us (in approximately ten days!), we will all decide whether to participate with family or stay at home watching Thanksgiving specials in our pajamas. The decision to be with family can be anxiety-provoking and has a certain layer of guilt associated with not wanting to be a part of the toxic dysfunction. For those of us who already suffer from anxiety, we do not look forward to going to Big Mama’s, who will point out every flaw since last Thanksgiving and being interrogated by older aunts and uncles about if and when you will get married/have children. Now don’t get me wrong being around family can be a beautiful experience, but it’s all too often these experiences become more harmful to our mental health than we would like to admit.
Every family has its flaws and dysfunction, and by no means am I encouraging you to ditch your family but PROTECT YOUR PEACE! We have unfortunately tolerated shenanigans so much; We have made blatant disrespect normal. So, this holiday season, I have a gift for you… BOUNDARIES. We all need them to live peaceful lives, yet we are so afraid to enforce them. At some point, you have to prioritize your peace over the temporary discomfort of someone not understanding your needs.
Here’s how we can start this boundary trend for the 2019 Holiday Season:
1. Teach people how to treat you. Be very clear about what makes you uncomfortable and what your needs are in the moment. It’s ok to say thanks, but no thanks in so many words.
2. You are allowed to change your mind. You’d be surprised how many people will be offended that you no longer engage in the same foolery from the past. Changing is a part of the growth process, embrace it.
3. Go where you are celebrated and not tolerated. You will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok. You do not have to subject yourself to negative energy. If the vibe is off, LEAVE! Save yourself the headache and dismiss yourself. Those who want to be involved in your life will be there.
4. Either address it or let it go COMPLETELY. If you find yourself in the same awkward situation with the same family members, you have two choices: (1) address the issues and move forward or (2) forgive and move forward. Life is too short to harbor negative energy, and it serves no purpose in your new peaceful lifestyle.
5. Don’t be the thief of your joy. If you aren’t in the space to create the needed boundaries to protect yourself, that's ok, try again next year. Holidays with friends who’ve become family can be just as joyful as being with your given family. Family is what you make it, so don’t get wrapped up in what should be and who should be and enjoy the present moment.
Have some things a little deeper than this list can remedy? It’s always okay to see your therapist and work through the tough stuff. We as therapists prepare every year for the holiday season and look forward to helping you have a better experience than you had last year.