The holidays are all about spending time with people, and many get together with friends and family that they don’t see most of the year. This usually involves a lot of preparing for gatherings and may involve traveling. For those that have fibromyalgia and other chronic health issues, extra activities like this outside of routine can not only cause anxiety, but also can be very stressful.
I know, just standing on your feet cooking a big meal for a group of people you are not ordinarily accustomed to hosting can be too much physically. But if you have any family drama that may come with a group of folks gathering then it can be extra stressful. One of the ways to manage the holiday stress being around family drama is through setting boundaries.
Boundaries are your personal guidelines for what you expect from others and how you expect to be treated and supported. Here are some things to help establish boundaries with friends and family as we head into the holidays.
Understand Your Triggers
It is important that you understand what you need and what during the holidays contributes to your stress so that you can clearly communicate this to others. If you can identify your stressors, you’ll be able to prepare ahead of time. So that you don’t become anxious as the holidays near, take some time to reflect on past stressors and identify causes of discomfort or distress you experienced.
Make Yourself a Priority
Making yourself a priority is part of self-advocacy. You have to realize that you are worthy of feeling comfortable, worthy of being respected. Sometimes at family gatherings it can feel like a trap when relatives are reminiscing and bringing up the past that might be an emotional trigger for you. This can cause social anxiety and be a trigger for a fibro flare-up. It doesn’t matter if it is just in the holiday jest or games, if certain comments and jokes about the past make you uncomfortable, that is not okay—even if they claim you are being too sensitive. You are worthy of respect. When you know your worth, you will be better able to stand up for yourself and communicate your boundaries.
In expressing boundaries, your communication may be received more easily if you use statements that begin with “I”. This way the other person or group will less likely feel the need to be defensive. If you keep the dialogue about you and how you feel in certain situations, it is more about helping you than it is about attacking what they do or say that makes you feel that way.
Communicate Your Needs
It is so important that you think about your holiday stressors beforehand. If family drama is something that triggers you every year, then this is the year to communicate that. If the point of the holiday celebration is to spend time with loved ones, then communicate early. A lot of women with fibro feel overwhelmed by family drama because others make comments about them that make them feel lousy. I am part of several fibromyalgia Facebook groups and it is so sad what these women must listen to from relatives. Because fibro is an invisible ailment, there is a lot of judgment, and these women feel it. If this has been you in the past, know that there are many of us that see you and understand.
Plan to Stay Calm
If you still find yourself in a family drama situation this year, there are two approaches you can take. First, breathe through it. Keep your mind calm and focus on your breath. Stay centered and don’t let yourself jump into reaction mode. You do not need to defend yourself. You have to take care of yourself and that means keeping your stress level low. Lean into your own conviction to be grounded this holiday. And the second approach, remove yourself from the area of family drama if necessary. Take a walk or go to another room. It is better to guard your health. You are worth it.
Family drama does not have to ruin your holiday celebrations if you prepare mindfully ahead of time. Spending time with family can be one of the most beautiful parts of the season, and you deserve that joy so take these steps to set boundaries to help manage that stress.
Hearts & (gentle) Hugs,