The holidays are quickly approaching and a growing topic trend has been present within the practice. Most of my clients are really unsure if they want to participate in family gatherings for the holidays due to added stress and uncomfortable moments. Most of my clients report that they are constantly asked very intrusive questions about their lives along with the family insinuating that they move along quickly to meet societal/family norms. Some examples are: asking when they will get married, what they are studying while in college, asking about their future career plans, asking couples when they will start trying to have a baby, asking them if they are dating or seeing anyone, commenting about weight loss or weight gain, asking about mental health diagnosis or intimate medical conditions. These are just a few intrusive questions that family members feel comfortable asking. This can be a nightmare for introverts or people who feel that these topics are both personal and taboo. The thought of seeing that intrusive aunt, uncle, grandmother or grandfather could cause some serious anxiety and could result in some people avoiding family gatherings all together. The end result of these embarrassing moments have even caused relapse in depression and anxiety symptoms and sometimes suicidal thoughts.
My advice is to first make a decision about going to the family gathering or staying home. This is ultimately your choice and try to be confident in your decision to reduce feelings of guilt. You can also try to use assertive communication and simply inform your family members that you are not interested in discussing this during the gathering and you would like to enjoy spending time with them. You can also change the subject or merge the conversation into something cheerful by interjecting with a fun memory or by telling a clever joke. You may also simply say that this information is personal and you are not comfortable answering. Either way you do not have to answer uncomfortable questions that may you feel uncomfortable. Do what makes you feel happy this holiday season and possibly creating your own traditions will help to ease some of the anxiety or depression you may be feeling regarding participating in family holiday celebrations. You could also option to participate in a charity event or encouraged the family to as well, this will leave little to no room for intrusive questions or embarrassing moments.
Remember this is a season to practice gratitude and to share happy and positive memories, you get to decide how you want to remember the 2019 holiday season.
-Sharika Pruitt, LPC