So many of us struggle with anxiety during the holidays and it can be difficult to move through the different hurdles that come along with the holiday season. D.C. based writer, Ajolique Jude, shares some insight on how to deal with family triggered anxiety in ways that are healthy, helpful, and rooted in self-care.
Dealing with Family Anxiety during the Holidays
For many of us, the holiday season can be a difficult period to navigate when family relations are strained, broken or unbalanced, anything less than joyful. While it’s wonderful to spend time with loved ones during the holidays, these gatherings are not safe spaces for all of us.
My mother passed when I was young, and aside from the expected grief, a ripple of unexpected implications followed. Immediately following her death, many family members stepped in to assist my dad with raising my brother and I. Watching us on weekends and evenings when he had to work. Occupying our time with crafts and activities and serving as a welcomed distraction.
As time wore on, that involvement switched to a slow distancing from my dad, my brother and I. We had shifted to the outskirts of the family circle and to this day, I’m not sure what caused some family to distance themselves and others to develop a deep-seated distaste. But I have come to realize, when you stand firmly in your identity and beliefs, everyone will not open their arms to you. This means sometimes the familiar will have to become unfamiliar.
Even knowing this, I feel anxious every year around this time when I have to make a decision whether to attend family gatherings or keep space for myself. Part of my awareness journey is to be still and check in with my feelings so I can make clear decisions that honor my needs. As Thanksgiving approached this year, I had to check in with myself when invited to gather with my family. Do I have the resources needed to be present with my family right now-- time, energy, peace? How do I want to spend that time? If I am isolated or disrespected, will I be able to maneuver in that space and protect myself, if necessary?
When the thought and expectation of family gatherings overwhelm you, it can be useful to shift your focus and reclaim your joy by intentionally choosing an uplifting alternative. These are some of my favorite ways to cultivate joy during the holidays:
- Spend time with chosen loved ones and friends who fuel your light and value your presence.
- Give of yourself. Your time, energy and resources can be a huge blessing to those in need during this season.
- Treat yourself to the small joys of the season. Cook for yourself. Bake yourself the most delicious pie. Adorn your space.
We create our joy. We can cultivate it wherever we choose. Can you find or create spaces where you feel safe and loved during the holiday season?