How to identify your support system and design a safety plan for this holiday season

Thanksgiving is over and now we turn our attention to Christmas. Christmas can be the most stressful time of year. There are so many expectations and activities. The financial pressure of gift giving, traveling, and all the extras create added stress. And of course, there is the family and relationship issues.

We all face relationship challenges within our families. During a time of loss it can feel more challenging. Your family members may say or do things that are insensitive and not even know they are being insensitive. In their view they are trying to be helpful with their well meaning intentions.

This adds to the holiday stress, especially when you are spending time with people who are not supportive, who create drama and are critical. They may feel that you are getting all of the attention and start to attack you with their criticisms. They may think you should be “over it” by now.

So, how can you identify if your family or members of family are supportive? Ask yourself the following questions and answer honestly.

  1. Has your family been there for you emotionally in a non-judgmental, non-critical, loving capacity in the past?
  2. Do you feel accepted by your family?
  3. How does your family deal with stress? Do they lash out under pressure?
  4. Do you trust your family enough to show you are vulnerable or do you guard yourself in there presence?
  5. Do you like being around your family or is it an obligation that you do with dread?

It is important to have your support system available. What does a healthy support system look like? The following are characteristics of a supportive person:

  • They are good listeners. They hear you without judgement. They are your sounding board and let you speak your mind no matter how crazy it may sound.
  • They are respectful and do not belittle you or your feelings.
  • They accept your emotions and let you express them. They give you a safe place to voice your feelings without negating them.
  • They do not give you advice unless you ask. They do not pressure or manipulate you.
  • They help with practical tasks:  mowing the lawn, changing the oil in your car, cooking a meal and so on.
  • They are available and connect with you without smothering.
  • The are empathetic and sincere. They are not fake or putting on a “show” so that they can be seen as good people.
  • They are supportive of you and your choices. If they think you are not choosing wisely they will tell you without judgement or criticism. They understand it is your choice and will be there for no matter what.

Do you have your support system in place when you are feeling attacked and/or overwhelmed? What is your plan to defuse any unpleasantness? Before reacting, ask yourself, is it a jab at you or are you overly tired and sensitive?

Take some time before your holiday get together and design your safety plan. It may save you added stress during this emotional season.

As always I would love to hear from you, please leave your thoughts in the comments. Remember you are not alone. I am here to walk along side you.



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