Holiday Help

A little help over the holidays?  Now that’s something we can all be grateful for!  

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, many of us are preparing to spend time with family and loved ones. Although this time of year can be filled with joy, many of my clients have expressed anxiety around confronting the toxic nature of their families. The reality is many people struggle with toxic family dynamics and the holiday season serves as a reminder of familial hardships that are easily avoided throughout the year with our daily distractions. 

Maybe your anxious anticipation is around one of the topics below:

Someone commenting about what my body looks like.

My grandma asking why I am still single.

My cousin drilling me about when I am going to start having children.

My uncle commenting on my career and asking why I don’t do something that is more lucrative.

My aunt having too much wine and saying something to upset my mom.

How to act around my cousin’s husband who just got out of rehab. 


The loss of a family member and feeling their absence around the holidays. 

Whatever topic or situation you are anxious about, there ARE things you can do to help get through the holidays! 


1. Give yourself the ability to hit the pause button. 

Know when you have had enough and it is time to honor your own space.  Excuse yourself from the dinner table, room, wherever you are and take a brisk walk outside.  Practice mindfulness. Try to focus on your breath and the outdoors. Tune into your senses and try to shut off for a few minutes. It’s amazing how just stepping away from a situation can help you gain your composure and return with a clear mind.  You can also go run an errand, go for a run, or do something by yourself. Stepping away can help you become more grounded and feel in control  when you return to the situation.  

2. Schedule time with friends 

It can be helpful to schedule time with friends or people outside of your direct family.  Put some time on the calendar with a friend from high school to catch up. Meet up with people who you don’t get to see throughout the year and live in the city that you are visiting. Being able to reconnect and share with people outside of your family can be a great reprieve to stressful family dynamics. 


3. Have someone on call

Make an agreement with a close friend or significant other that you can call if you need to.  It is nice to have someone who gets you and your family situation and can help dissipate your frustration around the dysfunction. A listening ear can be a great way to let off some steam. 

4. Practice acceptance and make a plan!

When we are able to ground our expectations then the holidays can become less devastating. Often we create situations or scenarios in our own head and believe that something is going to be different this time around.  Saying what we except from our family, labeling it as so, and accepting it can be quite helpful.  That way when you walk in the door you aren’t knocked off your feet.  When you walk in the door you can actually sigh and take a deep breath.  It is all the same. This allows us to mentally plan on what we are walking into with our families. Many of my clients know and are familiar with my talk of positive psychology, but in this case being overly optimistic or hopeful of a new family dynamic can be harmful and distort the reality of our family systems.  Plan what you expect to see over the holidays and try to accept this is the way that your family knows how to operate. Plan on using some of the different avenues and outlets that are listed above. 

5. Be grateful for the things that you do have! 

As Amy talked about in her last post, gratitude can be a powerful tool. I hope you all can find one thing to be grateful about in your life, big or small, over this Thanksgiving. 

I hope you find empowerment in what you CAN DO and how you CAN HELP yourself navigate the holidays.  Try to be mindful and create your own joy this holiday season! 

Have a happy Thanksgiving! 

mindfulnessKristin Schmittel