family at Christmas

How You Can Actually Deal with Difficult Relatives During the Holidays

Dealing with difficult relatives isn’t easy, but it can be particularly challenging over the holidays because you’re spending more time together in high-stress situations. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with challenging family members during the holidays. This is especially important if you are in recovery for a substance use or mental health disorder, as your mental and emotional health are at stake.

Below are some tips for dealing with difficult relatives over the holidays. We hope that you can benefit from them! 

Adjust Your Expectations 

First, you must adjust your expectations. If you know that Aunt Sue is critical or Uncle James is a pessimist, you can’t expect them to change all of a sudden. Expecting this will cause you to feel disappointed and let down. Instead, accept your loved ones for who they are and observe them rather than react to them.

If you know that you can’t handle a relative at this time, be polite and say hello, and then keep your distance. Remember not to take things personally. People usually have no idea that what they’re doing is causing harm. 

Plan Ahead and Set Boundaries 

Decide how you will be spending your holiday in advance. This way, you can look at things clearly and decide what you are comfortable doing. It is okay to change your plans. While it might upset some people, remember that your recovery comes first. You have worked hard to get where you are, and you can’t make decisions based on someone else’s feelings. 

Part of preparing for the holidays involves setting boundaries. You may have to decline certain invitations, bring along a sober companion or drive separately from the rest of your family. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries – they honor your recovery and let others know what is and isn’t okay. 

Practice Tolerance Find Common Ground 

We all do things that irritate other people, and we probably don’t realize it. Practicing tolerance is an effective way to appreciate each person and their quirks and irritating behaviors. If nothing else, at least know that it’s only for a short time! 

It can also be helpful to find common ground. You might have more in common with a relative than you think! You can reminisce of years past or engage in ‘small talk’ – hobbies, work, books, sports, etc. There are many ‘safe’ topics you can talk about. And if anything upsetting does turn up, practice the grey rock method

Recognize That You Can Only Control Yourself 

During the holidays, you’re likely to be around a lot of people. Accept that the only person you have control over is yourself. You can’t stop people from bringing up controversial topics or asking rude questions, but you can control your own reactions. No one can force you to engage in negative discussions. You have the right to change the subject or say, “I’m not going to discuss this right now.” 

Knowing that you are in control of your reactions, you also have the right to remove yourself from conversations that make you feel uncomfortable. Some questions or comments can strike a nerve (“When are you getting married? Why aren’t you drinking?”), so rehearse how you will respond to them. 

Keep Yourself Grounded 

During the holidays, take good care of yourself by eating well, getting enough rest and staying active. When you feel upset or stressed, lean on the coping strategies you’ve learned in drug rehab. Meditate, practice yoga, write in your journal, etc. Keep the lines of communication open with your loved ones and stay connected to your peer support groups. It feels good knowing that you are not alone. 

Awakenings Treatment Center is open during the holidays. If you need additional support, contact our admissions department today. You can get support throughout the week while spending the holidays with your family.