The holidays tend to bring a few key components: tasty food, busier malls, and getting together with friends and family, which can make it equally exciting and overwhelming simultaneously. It’s exciting because, well, hello, tasty food is always a win, and busier malls tend to mean better deals, but it can also be pretty overwhelming. Today we’re going to talk about family, because while we love them, we may find that some members are a little more difficult than others. It’s important to remember that no family is perfect, and sometimes the holidays can magnify that feeling.

Now, we’re going to make a couple of assumptions in this article, so let’s make sure we’re all on the same page from the beginning. 1) We’ll assume there is no global pandemic preventing you from seeing your family, or 2) you’ve all quarantined in advance for your family dinner. It’s important, first and foremost, to make sure you are staying safe and protecting not only yourself but those you love as well.

Also read: 5 Gifts To Give Yourself This Holiday Season

Let’s face it, we’re probably seeing people we don’t see very often

Unless your family gets together regularly, you will likely be seeing some people you don’t typically see, and that can be pretty overwhelming. This doesn’t mean that you don’t love, respect, or care about the people you’re seeing, it can sometimes just be a lot of personalities meshing together. And sometimes, when we’re overwhelmed, we may find ourselves talking more than usual, being more hyper-aware than usual, or get easily irritated. Plus, we need to remember that if we are feeling this way, there is a solid chance that someone else may be feeling this way as well, which may be why we find them difficult to be around. With that in mind, we’re going to talk about 10 ways to deal with a difficult family member during the holidays.

10 Ways To Deal With A Difficult Family Member During The Holidays

10 Ways To Deal With A Difficult Family Member During The Holidays

1. Be kind (especially from the get-go)

When we feel uncomfortable, we may find ourselves putting up walls (sometimes without even realizing it). One of the most important things that we can do is to focus on kindness. The reality is that feeling angry and upset (especially from the beginning) is going to hurt you more than anyone else. Focus on kindness towards yourself, as well as kindness towards others, and the rest will fall together.

2. Avoid difficult conversations

This may feel obvious to some, but if you know that some conversations are difficult or tend to get a little heated (ie: politics, religion, global pandemics, etc.) it may be best to avoid bringing them up altogether. The reality is that you likely won’t change anyone’s opinion over the dinner table, especially when you don’t see them often, so it might be best to keep the conversation light-hearted and positive. Talk about your dog, an interest they have, a memory from a previous holiday – something kind and well-meaning.

3. Set limits

If you know that certain get-togethers generally tend to be more challenging, remember that it’s okay to set limits that work for you. Where possible, try to make arrangements to come a little later, or leave a little earlier. Sometimes we may find that smaller doses of people are more enjoyable than larger ones.

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4. Distance yourself if possible

If there are specific family members that you find difficult to be around during the holidays, give yourself distance from them. Sit beside someone you love and trust, and try to keep the conversation positive and fun.

5. Know your worth

You are worthy of all the incredible things this world has to offer: you are worthy of love, respect, the second piece of pie for dessert… all of it. Actively remind yourself before, during, and after the event, especially if someone tries to tell you otherwise.

6. Breathe

Take a deep breath: in through your nose, pause, and release through your mouth. Sometimes when we’re stressed, we may find ourselves holding our breath or breathing quickly without even realizing it. As natural as it may seem, take a second to really focus on your breath. When your breathing is regulated, you will likely feel a little calmer and more level-headed. At any point that you feel overwhelmed, zone in on yourself and shift your focus back to your breath – it will always be there for you.

7. Pause and collect yourself

As easy as it may feel to lash out through anger, it’s important to remember that negativity breeds negativity. Before you respond, try taking a second to pause and collect yourself first. When we are feeling uncomfortable, we may find that we are not articulating ourselves in the best way. Make sure you are responding in a way that is calm, clear, and properly articulates what you are trying to say.

8. Realize it’s likely not about you

Hurt people hurt people: it’s not just a catchy name for a song, it’s the truth. If someone is difficult to be around, or if they try to pick a fight, try to remind yourself that it’s probably more about them than it is about you. This isn’t to say that should disregard your feelings, but it is to say that most behaviour has meaning. If possible, try to remove yourself from the situation and focus on the good in your life.

9. Stay home

If things are extremely challenging for you are you think it would do more harm than good, you may want to consider staying home. Sometimes it’s better to care for your mental health in the short term, so you can show up feeling more confident later on. You deserve to feel your absolute best, so don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself.

10. Love yourself first

The number one thing to remember in any situation, especially when you are with someone you may not be fond of, is to focus on loving yourself first. The reality is that there will be a ton of people who we may find difficult in our lifetime – while we can’t change someone else, we can change how we think of ourselves. The more we start to focus on self-love, the less the opinions of others will bug us. It takes time, so take it slow and don’t be so hard on yourself.