The holidays can be stressful at the best of times. But when you add dealing with a dysfunctional relative into the mix, it’s enough to make you want to run and hide until the new year. But you don’t have to! Instead, use these five tips to help make sure that you survive this festive season with your dignity—and sanity—intact.
1. Abandon unreasonable expectations
It’s understandable to hope that your problem relative may have magically transformed since you saw them last. But it’s important to be realistic. People—and family dynamics—don’t change overnight. So as tempting as it is to engage in wishful thinking, it’s important to be real about the imperfect family member that you’re dealing with. The old saying “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst” is still around for a reason.
2. Set your boundaries
We can’t stress enough the importance of this. Boundaries can mean different things to different people so think about how to best stand up for yourself. That could mean setting a hard departure time for family events; saying no to certain gatherings where you just don’t feel comfortable; or telling that certain family member that it’s not the time or place to discuss when you’re getting married—or why you’re not having children.
3. Avoid obvious traps
We’re talking about triggers that can take a conversation from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds. Now more than ever it’s probably a good idea to avoid topics like politics and religion at the dinner table, especially if alcohol is involved since it’s removes inhibitions (and often any sense of decorum). If you feel like you’re on the verge of going off the deep end, take a deep breath and remember that you can’t regret what you don’t say.
4. Keep your power
The reality is there’s a good chance one of your relatives (and you probably know who) is going to offend you at some point. Whether it’s your mother, your brother or “Uncle Joe” it’s critical to recognize that the most cutting remarks can often be chalked up to people projecting their own insecurities onto you. Don’t buy in to it. Remember that you have the power to refuse to engage and—if necessary—leave.
5. Take a breather
This one is very simple. Go for a drive, take for a walk, meet with friends—basically do whatever you need to do to re-set and give yourself some space. You deserve it!
Feel like you need some more help? Take this quiz now to learn how to protect yourself against the difficult personality that’s threatening to put a damper on your holidays.
Kelly Bray DeSola is a content marketer and copywriter with over 15 years of experience creating compelling copy across a wide variety of industries. She has dealt with many difficult personalities in her time.