The best way to deal with toxic loved ones this holiday season
Despite all odds, you made it to the end of 2020 - the most transformative year of most people’s lives. Many people experienced a loss this year. Some people lost jobs and income; others lost homes and lost loved ones. When you reflect on the challenges, it seems unfair that we must celebrate the holidays this year. After everything that happened, this celebration could be what we all need.
If you did not spend the last seven months of your life in lockdown, you would not be as excited to get out of the house. Last Christmas, you may have avoided your Aunt Nell’s house. Why? Because every time you go there, she always has something to say about your weight. This year, you may welcome Aunt Nell and all her criticism to avoid staying inside!
For some people, the holidays can be lonely and anxiety-inducing. Besides dealing with the Aunt Nells of the world, the holidays could be a time of trauma. This trauma could be the loss of a loved one, an inopportune breakup, poor finances, or toxic relatives. Dealing with relatives who never know what to say seems to be the biggest reason for holiday anxiety. Today, we will focus on that.
If you follow us on Instagram, then you saw our series of posts about stress, its effects on the body, and how to manage it. In case you do not follow us, here is what you need to know about stress:
Under stress, your body goes into survival mode and does what it feels like it needs to do to help you survive.
One of the ways that your body survives is by pushing you to overeat.
A need for overeating stems from an increase of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone.
When cortisol increases, your insulin levels increase, and your blood sugar lowers.
Increased insulin and lower blood sugar result in sugary, fatty food cravings.
When you do not watch what you eat and mismanage your stress, you are most prone to weight gain. If your Aunt Nell’s inappropriate comments about your weight bothered you before, you will hate them more if you stress eat! We want you to have a holly jolly Christmas, though. So, to prepare you for a dashing time, we decided to share:
5 mental health tips you need for the holiday season
1. Remember that this is temporary
When you are under stress, everything that is unfortunate feels like it will never end. Meanwhile, good things fly by. Despite the effort we put into Christmas Day, the day comes and goes. Remembering that your time with Aunt Nell is short will shift your attention to the more enjoyable things of that day.
2. Communicate your concerns with your loved ones
Sometimes in life, we need mediators. If you cannot stomach another year of Aunt Nell’s bullying, then you may need to consult a loved one who has her ear. We do not recommend you make a stink of it because people can be dramatic for no reason. Present your concern in passing as you discuss plans for the holidays with your loved ones. Tell them how you feel and be authentic. Sometimes saying, “I do not feel good about myself when you speak to me that way,” is freeing. It is more freeing than bottling emotions. Yes, that is not the easiest thing to say, but trust us, there is freedom on the other side of raw human emotions. People are more empathetic when you are genuine.
3. Ask your loved ones for feedback
In this case, the loved ones that we are referring to would be the ones who are bullying you. People who criticize and bully others are stock full of problems with no solutions. The next time a loved one criticizes your weight, respond: “thank you for your feedback. How are you prepared to help me solve this problem?” Nine times out of ten, your response will catch them off guard and they may feel a tinge of embarrassment. By the way, try to respond in the most sincere, non-hostile tone possible. That can be difficult, but it is worth a shot.
4. Limit the amount of time that you spend with your loved ones
Rather than spending 5-6 hours, cut that time in half. Before you arrive, let your loved ones know in advance that you have a prior engagement. It does not matter if that engagement is sitting in bed, scrolling through Instagram! The less time that your family has with you, the more likely they will be to cherish that moment.
5. Avoid loved ones that bully you
This suggestion is the last resort of our mental health tips. Avoiding problems can feel good in the short-term, but long-term, it is not helpful. Healthy confrontations can make a visible difference in your life. Talking through your problems improves your mental health over time. If this is not something you are willing to do, then avoid your toxic relatives. It is 2020 - this year has been quite a bit - so people may not hold your absence against you.
By the way, if you read this and discovered that you are the Aunt Nell of your family, grow up. Even if your remarks are innocent, constant criticism erodes relationships over time. If you always have something negative to say, then it may be time to look inward. What issues are you hiding within yourself? Remember, people who are at peace and filled with joy do not have time to project negativity onto everyone else.
Finally, and for the millionth time, it is 2020! This year has been rough on everyone - young and old, rich and poor. Be mindful of the things that you say and do. Some people are holding on with their last breath.