Coping with Family during the Holidays
Michael Weinberg, Ph.D., LPC is a therapist at Banner Thunderbird Behavioral Health Center. The issues listed in this article are frequently discussed in the Intensive Out Patient (IOP) programs located at BTMC for patients who are struggling with a depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders or alcohol/drug abuse or dependence. If you have any questions concerning our IOP programs please feel free to call Dr. Weinberg’s office at (602) 865-5437. If you would like an appointment for a free IOP assessment please call (602) 254-4357.
Question: I have a tough time coping with family during the holidays. What can I do to make it through?
Answer: The holiday season is approaching and for many it brings stress and a mixed bag of emotions that could lead to serious problems.
The commercial world presents the holidays like a Norman Rockwell painting – a picture of family sharing wonderful times surrounded by love, harmony and emotional safety. But for many, reality is far from this image and instead the holidays reflect family discord, emotional torment, stress and loneliness.
There are two ways to deal with this – change the way you think and change your behavior. You cannot change others. Here are some tips on how to change your thoughts so you can experience a satisfying holiday spirit:
- Believe you are precious and worthy of happiness in spite of your imperfections. Say to yourself three times a day, morning, afternoon and before you go to sleep: “I am worthy of a good life filled with happiness in spite of my imperfections.”
- Practice having healthy boundaries. Adopt the belief that when people say mean things to you, those statements reflect more about who they are and how they are feeling.
- Be assertive, not aggressive. Share your feelings without degrading others. When you get aggressive it is about controlling someone else. Being assertive is more about telling others how you feel so you don’t neglect your feelings.
There are a few practices that can help you change your behavior. Meditate daily about how you are worthy of a good life. Take a walk or do some form of exercise every day for 30 to 60 minutes, it will help you feel better. Make a list of at least seven friends and call one each day. Make plans to get together and do a fun activity.
For those of you who may be struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction issues this can be a very dangerous time in the calendar year. It is a time where it is very hard to go anywhere where alcohol for example is not present. Even gatherings in your own home may be challenging as guest may expect to have alcohol as a part of the festivities.
For those of you are in recovery reach out to your friends in the program, go to meetings, spend quality time with others who are in recovery and call your sponsor for support. Set the boundary that in your home this holiday season that it is an alcohol free zone. Let your guests know that you can have a wonderful time with them enjoying each other’s company without introducing alcohol into the home environment.
Happy holidays! Do your best to enjoy them.