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  • Writer's picturePRSL

How to Prepare for a Stressful Holiday Gathering

Displays are going up, store shelves are stocked, we’re getting holiday sale emails from every mailing list we’ve ever subscribed to...we all know what that means!

While the holiday season can be absolutely wonderful, it can also be downright exhausting and stressful. Spending time with loved ones can be both food for the soul and incredibly draining, especially if you have toxic family members or struggle with social anxiety! And then there are the holiday parties hosted by friends and employers...

The team at Punk Rock Saves Lives (PRSL) knows just how complicated holiday gatherings can be, so we’re here to help! Use these tips to prioritize and protect your mental health this holiday season.

Set Your Boundaries

Setting boundaries can be absolutely critical for these kinds of events, even if you feel anxious about doing so. Before you go, think about what your needs are and how they can be achieved; is there a topic you need people to not bring up or a person you need to avoid? Figuring this out ahead of time and even communicating it with people who will also be in attendance can help avoid a painful situation later.

Protect Your Peace

Now that you have those boundaries, enforce them! The holidays are meant to be enjoyed by all, and if there is something that makes you uncomfortable and the people around you don’t respect that, then they’re taking away from your happy holiday experience. Protect your peace and put your foot down; you don’t have to stay quiet when someone makes you uncomfortable!

Consider a Buffer

Anxious about enforcing your boundaries for some reason? Consider taking a plus one as a buffer! Most of the time people are on their best behavior when strangers are around, and your buffer can help prevent your discomfort! They can change the subject when sensitive issues pop up, politely provide an opportunity to step away, and even enforce your boundaries for you since they have no personal investment in how the people see them!

Plan an “Out”

If things get too uncomfortable or you feel yourself running out of energy to deal with the social situation, it can be helpful to have an excuse planned ahead of time so you can duck out early. Come up with a reason you have to go in advance to take the pressure off of the moment, and if you have a buffer, discuss a signal of some sort for each of you to use if you need to leave.

No buffer? Make a plan with a friend ahead of time so that you can send them a quick text to have them call you with an “emergency” when you need out!

Find Your Outside Support Early

Having a vent outside of the situation can help a lot. Find a community to lean on, like the PRSL virtual mental health support group; this can give you an outside perspective on things and even give you new ideas for how to approach difficult situations. It also helps just to know you’re not alone in your experience!

And, while it may sound redundant: schedule your therapy appointments if you can. Working through social and family issues can be incredibly heavy and incident-specific; a mental health professional can provide you with the tools and resources to make this holiday season your best yet!

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