If you are like the majority of Americans; the holidays stress you out. There is nothing like the combination of pressure to see THAT family member ( you know which one ) and the expectation of gift giving (which is likely going blow the budget ) to get your blood boiling, heart pumping and thoughts racing.
Maybe you promise yourself each year next year will be different. Next year I will say no to Aunt Sue's Christmas party that I leave each year near tears. Next year I will buy gifts throughout the year and not wait to the last minute or at least set aside some extra money for gifts. Now its December and your mom is guilting you into attending Aunt Sue's party (she won't live forever, you don't see her that often, what will people think?!?). Oh and your Christmas shopping? Barely started and these prices, Wild!
Take a deep breath. This is the year that you take your control back. It is not too late. All you need is a few simple and kind boundaries. Oh, I know the B word, cue increasing anxiety. This won't be as bad as you think.
Now if a certain family member has caused significant trauma and seeing them is going to cause you significant harm I want you to consider saying no to that invite and not looking back. Your mental health always needs to be your first priority.
If thats not the case, call Aunt Sue about that invite. Kindly accept that invitation while setting a gentle boundary. "Hey Aunt Sue, I am able to attend the party. Before I attend I wanted to let you know that it upsets me when you ask about my (relationship status, pregnancy status, weight etc). Any conversation, no matter how well meaning, will make me less able to enjoy the party and our time together. I really want to be able to have a good time so I am asking we please do discuss this area."
Now hopefully Aunt Sue had no idea you felt so strongly and will honor this boundary. If the party comes and she attempts her line of questioning despite your request you can gently remind her this topic is off limits. If she persists you can walk away. If she continues to follow you around asking questions it is time to leave.
Boundaries are a kindness we give other people to allow them to know our limits so they can be in our lives in a healthy way. If they refuse our boundaries it is up to us to take the steps necessary to enforce them to keep ourselves safe. This may seem scary at first but will ultimately be empowering. Imagine a holiday season (and eventually a life) where we feel respected and less stressed
See part 2 for managing finances.