The holidays are approaching, and this time of year is often portrayed as a happy time when families come together to enjoy meals and exchange pleasantries. Many of us know that while this idealistic scenario is nice to fantasize about, it is often not the reality. Families are dynamic systems with their own intricacies and rules and each individual relationship within a family has its own characteristics. As we get older, we become more aware of what our role is within the family system, and we start to recognize unhealthy patterns and relationships.
If the thought of family get gatherings are coupled with pangs of anxiety, or worse, straight-out dread, it’s time to examine what is at the core of those feelings. Often by dissecting the various individual relationships and past experiences, a person can start to understand the root cause of the stressor. To have healthy relationships, there must be some level of honesty, and open communication is imperative.
By having up front conversations with family members about any issues or tension prior to a gathering, there may be some resolution or compromise reached and reduce anxiety around the holidays.
An objective third party such as a mental health professional, may be required to work through deeper family issues. A mental health professional can also work with an individual and provide them tools to help set and maintain boundaries within their relationships. It may be uncomfortable or difficult to confront toxic family relationships, but in the long run, a person’s mental health can improve greatly once boundaries are established and ultimately, maintained.