Holiday Stress: How to Deal with Family Drama

holiday stress

For many people, the holiday season isn’t quite as warm and cozy as Hallmark movies make it out to be. Some families bring a healthy helping of conflict to the table during times of togetherness. If you’d like to learn how to deal with family drama and holiday stress, you’ve come to the right place. Here are our top tips for fostering “good will toward men” in the month ahead.

Why All the Holiday Stress?

First, it’s important to unpack why the holidays are such a stressful time for everyone – especially people in recovery. There are many factors behind holiday stress, including:

Returning to Old Roles

No matter how much you’ve grown, matured, and changed, going home for the holidays can cause you to fall back into old family roles. For example, if you’ve always been a caretaker, you may find yourself waiting on people hand and foot. This can be stressful and cause a lot of internal conflict.

Battling Others’ Perspectives

If your family hasn’t spent much time with you, they may not fully buy into your recovery journey. Many people find that their parents and siblings initially still see them as irresponsible or untrustworthy, even after they’ve made amends. The holiday season can feel like a “test,” which creates tension and mental strain. You might also rail against differing opinions with regards to politics, values, or your future plans.

Comparing Your Family to Others

Social media has exacerbated an age-old problem: comparing ourselves to our friends and colleagues. It’s difficult to see a news feed full of matching pajamas and holiday meals when your Christmas has been spent arguing with your family. Even knowing that social media is a “highlight reel,” not reality, this comparison can cause emotional distress.

There’s a Lot to Plan

The holidays require more coordination the older you get. Purchasing flights, taking precautions for COVID-19, packing, and getting the right gifts for everyone can majorly stress you out.

Family Drama

Lastly, family drama is to blame for a large percentage of holiday stress. Your loved ones can push your buttons like no one else, whether they mean to or not. They may criticize you, make passive-aggressive remarks, alter plans, pry about your sobriety, or otherwise upset you. Arguments about politics and personal opinions may also spring up between people in the house. If you have toxic or narcissistic family members, these behaviors are almost certain to occur. Let’s talk about why family drama is such a big part of the holiday season.

Toxic Family During the Holidays

Toxic family members are those who seek to create drama and conflict at every opportunity. If you dread being around them, every interaction goes wrong, and you dislike the way they treat people, you may have a toxic parent, sibling, or extended family member on your hands.

Some typical toxic holiday actions include:

  • Taking everything personally, even when you don’t mean it that way.
  • Picking fights about insignificant things, especially when things have finally calmed down.
  • Gaslighting you into doubting your own thoughts and experiences.
  • Refusing to accept you, your sexuality, your partner, your sobriety, or your life choices.
  • Requiring each person to “perform” and earn their approval.
  • Lacking the ability to consider others’ feelings and needs.
  • Bulling or harassing you and others.
  • Purposefully sabotaging plans.
  • Needing to be the center of attention at all costs.
  • Putting down others to make themselves seem superior.

Holiday Stress Relief

Whether you’re dealing with a toxic parent, manipulative sibling, or petty family drama, there are steps you can take to find inner peace this December.

Control What You Can

Remember, you have the ability to change the things within your control. You can set limits on the amount of time you will spend with family – if you’d like to be home with your kids for Christmas morning, that’s fine! If you’d prefer for your family members to meet at your house, suggest that to the group. By clearly communicating your expectations and taking control, you can minimize holiday stress.

Set Boundaries

If your family members keep bringing up certain hot-button issues (like politics) or begin to pry about your personal life, it’s okay to draw a line in the sand. Calmly tell them that you will not engage in a discussion about that topic, but that you’re happy to talk about something else instead. You should also inform them of the consequences that will ensue if they disregard your wishes. This is a great way to stop family drama before it starts.

Have an Exit Strategy

This is always a tip that we give to those new to sobriety. Drive yourself to the family gathering and park somewhere where you will not be blocked in. That way, if things get out of hand or if your uncle pressures you to have “just one drink,” you can leave the premises quickly and easily.

Take a Break

Holiday stress can bubble up even if everything is going according to plan. Be sure to step outside and catch your breath from time to time. Deep breathing exercises and mindfulness meditations can help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Assume Everyone Means Well

Our final tip is in the spirit of the holiday season. It can be easy to enter family events with our guards up, especially if these events have been drama-filled in the past. However, sometimes, our family members are just different from us – they may have values or personality quirks that just grate on you. Exercise unconditional love to calmly let your loved ones be themselves, and follow that famous AA tenet: Don’t take anything personally.

We’re Here for You Through Holiday Stress

The holidays are an especially difficult time for people in recovery, and for many, family is a source of anxiety rather than comfort. Augustine Recovery is here for those requiring care during this challenging month. We believe that with healthy coping mechanisms, it’s possible to overcome family drama and holiday stress. Contact our admissions office for more information about addiction treatment in St. Augustine, Florida. Our compassionate team is standing by.