Christmas can bring out stress in the most peaceful people
– There are gifts to buy and overcrowded shops.
– An elaborate meal must be cooked for family and friends.
– I have to make the house look festive.
The list goes on and on. Add a toxic family dynamic to the mix and the stress can be overwhelming. So let’s talk about some ideas for how to survive the holidays without losing your mind.
At the prospect of spending the holidays with toxic family we often worry for days, if not weeks, about the family gathering. Instead of worrying, though, start preparing. When you worry about certain possibilities start visualizing strategies to cope. Preparing yourself gives you the upper-hand, and will give you more confidence to fend off the toxicity.
The Gift Of Giving
Getting a gift for a toxic person is a near-impossible challenge. They usually find some way to criticize and make you feel bad for your efforts. So maybe just give up before you even get started. Get a gift certificate or voucher for them so they can buy themselves whatever they like. I know it’s not very original, but it’s also very hard to really complain about. Or if you want to be original—and figure there will be complaints regardless—why not adopt them a tiger, or get a family in Africa a goat? And in doing so you can also do some good for the world!
Volunteering For The Right Jobs
If you are attending a large family gathering, there are usually some jobs that keep you away from the toxic person. So volunteer for those. Maybe looking after the kids keeps you out of the kitchen where your toxic mother is cooking. Or maybe cooking keeps you away from the living room where a toxic father is watching TV. Do the dogs need an extra special long walk in the forest? That could keep you out of harm’s way for a while.
Limit Your Exposure
Think about a way to limit your time at the celebration. This can be tricky especially if you have to travel to get to the party. You may want to choose to ‘forget’ to bring an overnight bag, so you have a deadline for leaving. When you live nearby you may want to only bring two nappies for the baby (provided you bring one of those). This, too, will give you a natural deadline. If there is no excuse for an early departure, why not opt for a late arrival? Volunteer in a local soup kitchen, or help out with some activities at a care home. The toxic person will be hard pushed to fault you for that (at least in public).
There can be expectations of ‘having to be there’, but realize that you do not NEED to meet other people’s expectations.
If you are attending the celebration with a partner or friend, make sure you talk to them before hand. Make them aware of your hesitations and involve them in strategizing. How can your partner help you to make the best of the evening? Can they act as a shield, and deflect some of the toxic attention? This can make a tremendous difference.
Take Control Over What You Control
The one thing we have no control over at the Christmas celebration is the behavior of the toxic person and their flying monkeys. So try to prepare well for the things you do control. If there is likely going to be some time to kill, bring a magazine. If you are taking the kids, make sure you pack enough entertainment. Of course you cannot control everything, but try to minimize the predictable stress for the day.
Get Advice From Those Who Know The Feeling
In other words, join us on the forum! We all know the feeling. So share your worries, or ask for advice. Whatever you need! You have a whole community of experience experts at your disposal. So feel free to use that resource.
These are just a few suggestions, but mostly we want you to remember the following: