Dealing with Difficult People – the festive edition - Wildflower Fire Coaching
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The festive season is supposed to be a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. However, for many people, it can also bring stress and anxiety, especially when dealing with difficult family members. Setting healthy boundaries with family, practising self-care, and managing expectations can help make the festive season more peaceful and enjoyable.

Here are some things to think about if the thought of Christmas is making your toes curl…….

Know Your Limits

If a certain family member is particularly negative or critical, limit your exposure to them. You don’t have to attend every festive function or spend long stretches of time with toxic relatives. Be selective about which events you attend and how long you stay. Say no to activities you don’t want to participate in.

Set Boundaries

Don’t be afraid to set clear boundaries with manipulative or demanding relatives. Make your limits known upfront – whether that’s topics of conversation to avoid, physical affection, or time commitments. Be firm and consistent with your boundaries. Don’t feel pressured to share personal information or agree to anything that makes you uncomfortable.

Manage Expectations

The festive season often comes with unrealistic expectations for family harmony and many many movie moments. But families are complex and many have strained relationships. Accept family members as they are, rather than wishing they would change. Let go of expectations about how the festive season “should” be. Manage your own expectations and you’ll reduce resentment and disappointment.

Practice Self-Care

Make sure to take time for yourself amidst the hustle and bustle. Sneak in moments of solitude. Go for a walk, take a long bath, read a book – whatever helps you recharge. Don’t overcommit yourself. Say no to activities that leave you drained. Listen to your needs and honour them. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Focus on the Positive

The festive season can magnify negatives and conflicts. Counteract this by intentionally focusing on the positive. Share happy memories, enjoy cultural traditions, and absorb the spirit of the season. Reframe issues positively – are there lessons you can learn or ways to grow from conflicts? Appreciate loved ones who bring warmth to your life.

Get Support From Other Family Members

If you have strained relationships with certain relatives, check in with other family members to see how they handle those difficult dynamics. They may have strategies to share or be able to run interference. Having allies within the family circle makes setting boundaries easier.

Meet in Smaller Groups

Big family gatherings can feel overwhelming, especially when navigating tricky relationships. Consider breaking into smaller groups – this dilutes the intensity. Get together with only the relatives you’re close to and avoid larger events. Or volunteer to host a small Friendsgiving rather than a huge dinner.

Have an Escape Plan

When spending time with family that drains you, have an exit strategy. Drive separately so you can leave when ready. Have a friend on standby you can call or message during the event to give you an excuse to duck out early. Build in decompression time after being with challenging relatives.

Seek Professional Help

If family relationships are significantly impacting your mental health, seek counselling. A therapist can help you set boundaries, manage anxiety about family gatherings, and process difficult emotions. Don’t struggle alone – get professional support.

Focus on the Next Generation

Volunteer to help host kid-centered activities during the holidays. Making it about creating joy for younger relatives helps provide perspective. Refocusing on children in the family reminds you that the holidays are truly meant to be happy occasions full of laughter and magic.

Avoid Triggers

If you know certain topics tend to cause arguments with family members, steer clear of those subjects. Don’t take the bait if they try to draw you into political or religious debates. Change the subject or excuse yourself from the conversation.

Be the Bigger Person

When a relative acts out, don’t stoop to their level. Take the high road and respond calmly without attacking back. Kill them with kindness by remaining polite and civil even if they get rude or confrontational.

Write it Out

Keep a journal or write letters you don’t send to get emotions out on paper. Venting on paper can help you process frustrations and keep it out of actual conversations.

Limit Social Media

The festive season often means more family interactions on social media. But this can allow additional opportunities for criticism or arguments. Limit time on social media if it causes more family drama or if looking at posts of other families makes you feel sad or envious.

Enlist a Buffer

Ask a family member you trust to help act as a buffer or intermediary. They can step in if conversations get heated and defuse difficult situations. Their mediating presence can ease tensions.

Find Time Alone

Don’t spend all your time with family – build in alone time to decompress. Take a walk, meditate, curl up with a good book – find activities that help you recharge from festive stress. Quiet reflection restores your inner peace.

If you have any other tips, it would be great to hear them.

Above all I wish for you some restorative downtime, some time doing something you love with people you love, some peace and maybe some clarity if this is the first time for a while that you have had the chance to stop and take stock.


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