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It’s the Most Toxic Time of the Year

Sarah Vicini

Guest Blogger


Boundaries. A word we use so often when we talk about mental health. The importance of drawing boundaries at work, in relationships, and in friendships is at the forefront of protecting our mental health. But why does this word seem to get lost during the holidays? Why do we have such a hard time setting these boundaries when it comes to our families?

We live in a society where we are taught that our family should come before everything. But what happens when that family is immersed in toxicity? What happens when that family leaves you drained mentally and emotionally? Does choosing to put yourself and your well being first during the holidays mean you love your family any less?

I know this feeling all too well. The calendar flips to November and I begin to feel the pit develop in my stomach. This pit that I have struggled for years to identify the cause of ‒ is it an overwhelming dread to spend weeks with a family that leaves me feeling anything but holly and jolly or is it the overwhelming sense of guilt that comes with dreading this experience knowing that I am “supposed” to want to spend time with them?

Here is the reality though ‒ I have one of those families that thrives on guilt trips, snide comments, screaming and yelling, and lives in a constant state of chaos. This is the defining characteristic that I have known since I was old enough to remember. I moved 9 hours away for college ‒ and stayed 9 hours away even after. And then the calendar flips to November and the endless work that is the improvement and care of my mental health immediately gets thrown into a downward spiral.

It has taken me a long time to realize and even longer to accept that setting boundaries with my family during the holidays does not mean that I love them any less. It simply means that I love myself enough to protect my own well-being. This is something that I want to impress upon all that are reading this. It is not selfish to put yourself first during the holidays and this is a narrative that is imperative to rewrite. Your mental health journey is your own and you should not give anyone the power to derail that journey ‒ this includes family and friends during the holidays.

I challenge all to not compromise your health, overcome the pit that develops when that calendar turns to November and the impending dread starts to set in. I challenge you to rid yourself of the feeling of guilt by realizing that these positive choices are a significant triumph in your mental health goals. Do not compromise those goals for anything.

Rewiring these thoughts during the holidays is something that has taken time. It is a natural part of this time to feel the familial expectation and the desire to be surrounded by others to avoid feeling isolated. Choosing to set boundaries does not mean you spend this time of the year alone and holed up in your house. Setting boundaries means you spend a day with the family instead of a week. It can also mean you create new holiday traditions ‒ spending the season with friends that have become family in your life, using the holidays to practice self-care, or spend your time taking a trip. It is important to understand that boundaries are non synonymous with “alone.”

Regardless of the path you choose to take while creating these parameters for yourself, know that when things get challenging, that pit starts to develop, or too much uncertainty causes you to feel overwhelmed, WhiteFlag is there to provide you with that additional support that you may need. WhiteFlag can help you prioritize your mental health at this time. These decisions are not easy and it is truly a difficult process. WhiteFlag can help ease that struggle. Trust the process and trust that you are putting your best interest at the forefront.

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