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Handling Toxic Family and Friends During the Holidays

It’s that time of year where everyone is once again gathering with their families. Whether it’s large or small, you’re bound to run into a bad situation with family and friends. The toxic behavior you might run into can include acting extremely critical, disrespecting your boundaries and refusing to compromise.

The holiday season, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, is always stressful. If you’re looking for a way to reduce toxic greetings, here are a few tips.

Stand your ground

If you have friends and family begging you to come to an event and you don’t want to go, don’t be afraid to refuse. You aren’t expected to be anywhere you don’t want to be — whether that’s Aunt Carol’s Thanksgiving dinner or your best friend’s Christmas party. You have the option to not go. Your time should be spent on activities that make you happy and fulfilled, never on people who constantly take from you.

Set clear boundaries

Setting clear boundaries can always be hard, particularly when you’re not used to utilizing them. However, it is important that you recognize how you allow people to treat you and where you begin to feel that you’re being disregarded. Without boundaries, toxic people will continue to run over you and pretend they did nothing wrong.

Limit your time with them

If you are stuck around toxic people, limit your time with them. Don’t feel pressured to spend every moment around them. If you can, try to find moments throughout the day to take time away from them. Go for a walk, relax in your room, or talk with someone you like. It’s important to take breaks from an emotionally exhausting event when you can.

be kind, but remember you can’t fix them

You might think that these holidays are the perfect time to reconcile and fix your relationship with these people, but they might not be up to that. It’s important to treat them with kindness but to remember that you can’t fix who they are. People won’t change unless they want to.

have an exit strategy

If you catch yourself in a bad situation, have an exit strategy. Fake a headache, leave for a call, or say your dog needs you. You can even say, “I’m glad to have seen you, but I need to head out.” Don’t feel sucked into staying longer when you’re ready to leave. Take care of yourself first.

Don’t forget your own flaws

While it’s easy to place blame on everyone else, don’t forget your own flaws. It’s important to remember that you might be perceived as a toxic friend or family member. Make sure to recognize your faults and own up to them so that others don’t feel bad during the holidays.

The holiday season doesn’t mean that you have to wear yourself thin and stress out. You can still be in the company of friends and family while still giving yourself a mental break. Don’t freak out and remember that you deserve a great holiday. Never let anyone ruin that for you.

Madi Armstrong

Virginia Tech '23

I'm studying multimedia journalism with a minor in Spanish at Virginia Tech. I've lived across the world, from the United States to Spain to South Korea. If I'm not writing, you'll either find me browsing around the library for the newest book or at spin class.
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