So. You know what time it is. The final months of the year are always so hectic. If you’re in the United States, you’ll possibly be celebrating Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving with your family and friends. Then, there will be a slew of holidays for different cultures in December. All of this, you are possibly with family.

Now, we all know the story.

“Uncle Joe got drunk and taught us about sex and Momma got mad so she threw a pot at him but that hit Dad instead so he told everyone that he was having an affair with the milk lady.”

The holidays are a great time for family time, but for some, this is a time of pure chaos and toxicity. How do we cope? Especially when the magnitude of toxicity is multiplied by 100.

In my therapist’s old office, she had a chalkboard where she had written: A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect.

Boundaries! This translates to creating limits and simply knowing when to say ‘no’. So when do you start saying ‘no’? Even outside of the holidays, it’s hard to say when it’s time. I have a couple of thoughts on this.

When You Feel Completely Drained

If you’re drained, you are on the path toward a meltdown. Be honest with your hosts. Sometimes, people simply accept that you’re going to be tired during the holidays. So much to do. So little time. That being the case, you should be open about how the holidays are treating you. People are exhausting. The holidays are exhausting. And the more you push yourself, the more likely you’ll be engulfed by the holiday blues.

When You Don’t Look Forward To Going

Whether it’s a passive aggressive relative or an ignorant family member, you run the chance of hitting toxicity. When you know that you are walking into a toxic environment, you need to take the time to reflect. Is your mental health worth risking for some people that you see possibly a handful of times during the year? The answer is ‘no’.

My husband’s family has a giant get together for Thanksgiving. I don’t know how many people cramped into a small space. It was loud, claustrophobic, and awkward. We had little in common with the extended family who wouldn’t pull any punches when it came to “how we were doing”. We never looked forward to it. One year, they did holiday gifts and they had bought the same item for every group (boys, girls, men, women). So when the ladies walked up and opened up their gifts, I was shocked to see hair product for women who are blonde and who dye their hair blonde. If you’ve seen a picture of me (and Amy for that matter), you know I don’t need that. However, everyone else hit the profile. I don’t blame anyone for the gift, but it added to the anxiety of the celebration.

Anyway, I would leave anxious and overstimulated and hurt by some comments which had an underlying bit of judgment.

Since then, we have not been to one. We learned to say ‘no’, though I had a little bit of a breakdown on our way one year, our last year. We realized that our mental health should be valued and that we could make our own arrangements to enjoy family on our own terms.

Everyone has a way to cope. But sometimes, when it comes to family and this time of year, the option to say ‘no’ is alien and even unheard of. So if you refuse to say ‘no’, what do you do to cope with the onslaught of celebrations? Leave a comment with your answer!

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