How To Survive Your Stressful Family Gathering This Holiday Season

Good god, there is entirely too much talking—and I mean small talk, big talk, long talk—and I cannot take it. I like my family enough, but honestly, I am just not in a space where I want to chat excessively about anything at all. I know these people may mean well, but honestly, I sometimes think people just talk to talk and ask the most insanely intrusive questions possible and expect an honest answer. They also offer unsolicited opinions — if I ever needed an opinion about anything, it wouldn’t be theirs I would seek out. There’s a shit ton of conversations about religion and politics and repeated media jargon, which feels stifling and hard on the ears. It’s also a breeding ground for triggers, trauma, and old cycles of pain to come right up to the surface. It’s hard all around. So how does one survive?

First of all, if you’re like me and you are sensitive to small talk and excessive talk, you’ll need to set a time limit to get out of there. My time limit is 20 minutes. I am there, focused and participating and doing all of the listening I can get away with without having to talk. I make sure I set my alarm, and when that time is nearing, I start my exit strategy. Before I know it, the conversation is over and I’m out of there. Whew!

However, even within those twenty minutes, I get triggered by the behavior of either my mother or one of my aunts. How do I survive my mother? Be consistent with my distance. It’s kinda hard, because sometimes I want to indulge her and take advantage of her niceness, but I don’t trust her moods. To prevent myself from spiraling, she is to ALWAYS be held at an arm’s length. The other remedy to rude ass aunties is to politely speak up for myself and offer an unsolicited opinion of my own. An example of this is if one of them says something unflattering about my hair, clothes, or weight, I calmly suggest shutting the fuck up and minding their business. I honestly believe that if some people were checked for making unwanted comments, they would stop doing it entirely. I can politely check the shit out of someone. You can too.

I think those like me with anxiety know that there is no way in hell we could survive a room full of people talking too much. I like the time limits, but sometimes it’s not quite possible to leave. So, you can take moments in the bathroom to go breathe or take well-being breaks. Instead of going out to smoke, you can go out to get air and take a moment to do an activity to calm down. I repeat affirmations to myself constantly and calm myself down using my stress ball, because while I’m calm on the outside, I’m inwardly a bubbling inferno. I despise being confined to spaces where I can’t leave. However, self-love and self-preservation means knowing when to say “I have to go” or knowing you need a break. It’s necessary and helpful to catch your breath, because it may give you the life you need to continue through a tough-ass party. Self-care is recognizing you need space and air. Take it — you deserve it and it could save you the pain of agonizing later.

The last and most important step is having someone you can check in with. We all have our person who gets us and who accepts us and knows how to calm us when we are triggered. This person should be the person who knows where you are and who expects your call and are there to receive you. Surviving the holidays is better when you have a friend with whom you can share happy moments with. It means that you can get through the times when you want to cry and they are there to listen. Friends are the family we have chosen, and that’s a very important and necessary step when we are committed to healing and getting through tough times. The holidays bring out the crazy, the triggered, the rough, and the tough in our families, but it doesn’t have to mean an awful time the whole time.

Remember, you can:

1. Set a time limit if possible and then get the fuck up out of there.

2. Stand up for yourself when someone is being rude and imposing. You have a right to check someone for being rude and it’s worth it. Don’t back down.

3. Keep yourself sane by doing shit that helps you be calm. Ignore motherfuckers, keep your distance, and take breaks from a whole room full of people if you can.

4. Call your person when you’re going through a tough time.

You are a wonderful person and you deserve peace and quiet in your mind. Don’t let someone ruin your joy, and don’t allow yourself to be taken down a road you don’t want to go! You’re deserving of peace, happiness, and fantastic love from people who know YOU.

You don’t have to take anyone’s abuse or take any bullshit by seemingly well-meaning family members. Blood relatives don’t get a pass to be the negative presence in your life. The same energy you have for nasty-ass people in real life is the same energy you keep with your negative relatives. You are worthy of having peace everywhere, and that means speaking up for yourself. Some people may not like it and that’s okay. If they are going to talk about you anyway, then you may as well say everything that will satisfy your soul.

Fuck a silent night, speak your truth and keep it moving. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Wild Woman. Carefree Black Girl. Joyfully Audacious.

Follow Arihat on Instagram or read more articles from Arihat on Thought Catalog. Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.