5 Practical Coping Mechanisms To Help You Enjoy The Holidays Despite Crazy Family Drama

living room with Christmas trees

I don’t know about you but for me the holidays bring a mixture of joy and crazy family drama. I can’t be the only one! In light of this, I have compiled a list of 5 practical coping mechanisms to help you retain your sanity.

When dealing with the holiday drama my feelings are all over the place. On one hand, I am incredibly excited to celebrate Christmas with my children. We’re all looking forward to my toddler understanding Christmas and getting excited when she opens her gifts. After going through fertility for five years this is everything we dreamed of right? Or not.

Dealing With Crazy Family Drama

Here’s the thing. Even though my prayers for a baby have been answered and my marriage is in the best place it’s been in years I’m still dealing with heart pain over the holidays. Christmas has been a source of great heartache and great joy for my entire life.

To start, my parents divorced when I was a kid so we had to do Christmas twice, each time without the other parent. You can read more of my emotional wellness story here. Moving on to my 20s, 30s, and now my 40s, it seems like it’s the same stuff just boxed in different scenarios.

Getting To The Other Side of Emotional Pain

My point is that the emotional pain triggered during the holidays does not just fade with time. I have had to deal with my triggers and understand my thoughts to get to the bottom of it all.

The best part is that the mystery of it all drives me closer to Jesus. I go to Him asking why am I triggered again. How am I in this same place after 20 years of healing?

5 “I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. 

John 15:5, The Passion Translation

We are all works in progress from now to the day we step into heaven. And the only real answer is to abide in Him. Apart from Jesus, I am powerless.

5 Practical Coping Mechanisms To Deal With Emotional Pain

I’m writing this post to give you five practical coping mechanisms to help you to enjoy your holidays, despite the inevitable dysfunction. If it makes you feel any better, everyone has dysfunction.

Practical Coping Mechanism #1 – Detect Your Feelings

Use your holiday parties and family gatherings as a lab for detecting your heart pain. Become an expert on communicating to yourself how you are feeling. Write your feelings down in the notes on your phone or in your journal.

I want to encourage you to get real with yourself and reflect on how you are processing the comments, interactions, and questions you get asked. Ask yourself how do I really feel? Am I offended? Are my feelings hurt? What is my feeling? Is it fear, embarrassment, or rejection?

Articulating your feelings is key to being honest with yourself. You may be surprised by how you genuinely feel. Getting real with yourself sets you free from the lies of the enemy.

Practical Coping Mechanism #2 – Acknowledge Your Triggers

Get honest with yourself and acknowledge when you are triggered. Instead of going for that second piece or pecan pie or that extra glass of wine ask yourself why am I feeling uncomfortable?

Let yourself ponder; what about this scenario makes me want sugar or alcohol? Again, write it down in the notes on your phone or your journal so you can remember that moment instead of stuffing it down.

The last thing you want to do is not cope with your feelings. Let your triggers be a guide to your healing.

Practical Coping Mechanism #3 – Speak To Your Inner Child

Let your inner child speak. The whole inner child thing may seem weird at first but, the reality is that you have parts of your heart that are stuck at certain ages because of trauma or heart pain. It is in your best interest to get in touch with these parts of yourself.

Inner child work has been a great source of healing in my emotional wellness journey. The process for inner child healing is to ask that part of yourself how she is feeling. Let yourself hear the answer and process it delicately just like you would do with a child of that age.

For instance, if the 8-year-old part of you is scared because that was the year your parents divorced and you discover she is triggered. Ask your 8-year-old self how she is feeling.

You can do this in the moment or after during a time of reflection. You may be surprised at how quick you answer yourself. I know I was!

Practical Coping Mechanism #4 – Forgive And Walk In Love

Decide beforehand that you are going to forgive and be kind no matter what happens. When you get to a place where you cannot be offended by others God can move supernaturally in ways you never thought possible.

Changing your attitude and posture toward those who have offended you is life-altering in the best of ways. But let me be clear, this does not mean abandoning your boundaries. Which brings me to the last and maybe the most important coping mechanism.

Practical Coping Mechanism #5 – Set Boundaries

Set and keep boundaries at your holiday parties and family gatherings. Boundaries are about you and not the other person. As a recovering people pleaser, boundaries are now everything to me. It’s been a lifeline for my emotional wellbeing.

Before you are around people who might trigger you, I highly recommend putting boundaries in place that protect you. Some examples of boundaries include:

  • Deciding in advance how long you will stay at a party or gathering
  • Speaking up for yourself if someone says something demeaning to you
  • Declining any hugs, kissing on the face, or physical touch if that makes you feel uncomfortable
  • Being honest about your feelings when you are asked questions about how you feel, even if it’s not the answer they expect

If I’m being honest, it was even hard to write this blog post because of the old, people-pleaser side of me. I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings who read this if they knew me. But then I asked myself what is my motive for writing this piece. And the answer is to help others to heal from emotional pain and get set free. Once I had my answer, I knew I had to write it.

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