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Christmas has always been my favourite holiday. It has always reminded me of the blissful ignorance of childhood when the world was viewed through a sparkly, magical lens of happiness. I didn’t care what the adults around me were up to. I was just happy that they were there and that there were presents and cookies and good music.
Now that I’m a mother, I love Christmas even more in some ways. Now I have a hand in creating some of the magic, and I have developed some new traditions of my own. I get to bask in the glory of having ridiculously happy children and it truly is a beautiful thing. But Christmas has also gotten much more complicated in many ways. Though I still try to see the holiday through that sparkly, magical lens, the view is slightly obstructed by reality, anxiety, and just general adulthood.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing my family for Christmas. But I have divorced parents and now in-laws to see and buy for and tolerate. And it causes me so much anxiety and panic just thinking about it. There are one or two relatives that I just blatantly do not like and they do not like me back. But I have to see them and I have to be civil. And just getting all of the visits in and remembering to bring everything and all of the travelling and the conversation and the noise, Noise, NOISE. It makes me want to get in to my bed and not leave it until the whole season is over.
So this year, I’ve prepared myself by preparing a list of ways to deal with it all so that I don’t lose my mind like every other year since becoming an adult. Normally, I would just tell myself to drink as much as possible and just try to have fun and tune everyone out by numbing myself. But I gave up alcohol, so this year that is not an option. And really, it shouldn’t ever be an option because it just causes more anxiety the next time you have to see your relatives and you have to remember the time you ate your body weight in stuffing and drank three litres of wine and puked all over your grandmother’s bathroom. So, here is a list of healthy ways to deal:
1. Prepare conversation.
Many of my relatives ask the exact same questions every time I see them. So I’ve started to think of clever responses to all of the questions so that I’m prepared. Especially the nosey questions about my parenting skills or my reproductive parts (e.g. “When are you getting fixed?” Yes, someone has ACTUALLY asked me this).
2. Bask in the quiet moments.
We don’t have a lot of these moments with all of the children at our get-togethers. But even those five minutes of sitting in the bathroom or stepping outside to get a breath of fresh, cold air are glorious little “me-moments” that I love. They’re like my power-up moments and they are necessary to avoid complete meltdowns.
3. Keep busy.
Helping in the kitchen so you don’t have to talk to the sleazy uncle who wouldn’t be caught dead helping the “hens in the kitchen” is always a good idea. Better yet, host the get-together yourself. For my anxious control-freak self, this is really helpful. I feel like I have way more control over the situation. Basically, my house, my rules.
4. Avoid trigger family members.
Referring back to the sleazy uncle, or anyone that just makes your skin crawl, just stay away from them. Also, pick your favourite person that you’ll be with for the event, confide in them that you don’t want to be left alone to try and converse with whichever awful relative you’re thinking of, and just keep any conversation short and brief with that person. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll get the hint and leave you alone.
5. Have excuses ready.
There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as getting to leave a party early, am I right? You can go in with excuses at the ready if you’re 100 percent sure the party is going to be terrible for you, or you can save them and only use them if absolutely necessary. Examples, an out of town friend is coming to visit, you’re going to a work event, or you have to feed your hamster that doesn’t exist. Anything will do.
6. Opt out completely.
I know, family is the most important thing and you need to make the effort. That’s what they say, right? But if some relatives are just complete jerks and they have no regard for how much pain they have caused you and continue to cause you every time you see them, then don’t go. It’s their fault for being jerks. Your mental health is so important and Christmas is the time to be jolly. It’s hard to be jolly if you’re having a panic attack. Just stay home. Apologize so they leave you alone. And just relax and have a happy holiday with the people you want to be with. Or with that non-existent hamster.