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Sex with Dr. Jess


December 15, 2021

Keeping Cool With Family During The Holiday Season

Jess joined Carolyn and Jeff last week to discuss keeping cool with the family during gatherings. Check out the video and interview recap below.

What do you do when you just don’t agree politically? 

My dad and I are at polar ends of the political spectrum, and our holiday dinners always end up with tense debates?

There are so many layers:

It’s okay to disagree and not talk about topics that set you off. It’s also okay not to get together with people who cause you real distress and even trauma — this is the case when it comes to identity (e.g. a homophobic family member for queer folks).

It can be helpful to differentiate between disagreeing and being harmed. If you’re a part of a group that is being targeted – you risk being harmed. If you’re not, you have an opportunity to speak up and let them know how you feel.

I find that language offensive. 

If you are getting together, it can be helpful to plan ahead. Let them know what your boundaries are.

How do you set boundaries ahead of time?

You might tell them that you’re looking forward to getting together, but you’re not open to talking about certain topics.

Hi Auntie. I’m so looking forward to our family dinner next week. It will be great to reconnect with all the cousins after; so much time has passed. I know the topic of ______ (e.g. weight, kids, marriage) often comes up, but I just want to let you know ahead of time, I’m not up for that conversation at this time. We have too much other great stuff to talk about. See you soon!

It can be hard to find the words, but do you have a resource you recommend? 

Yes! @_good.byes_ on IG helps you set boundaries in text.

What about simply being overwhelmed socially with family after almost 2 years off? 

Social exhaustion is real. If you notice that you’re not feeling or acting like yourself — it could be a physical symptom like a headache or an emotional one like you just can’t listen to anyone else speak — you may be burnt out. And your threshold may be lower than it used to be. You might get irritated much more quickly and feel you can’t make small talk anymore. And these are signs that you need a break.

So what do you do if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or burnt out?

  • Listen to your body and take a break.
  • Go into another room and watch a funny video clip.
  • Step away and call a friend.
  • Go for a walk with one person if one on one talks feel more manageable.

And let your family know how you’re feeling. I’ve found that sitting for long periods makes me antsier, so I may need to step away from dinner.

You may even plan ahead and let them know that you’re hoping to take a walk before dessert. Or ask if you can bring a friend who puts you at ease or acts as a buffer.

Or tell them you’ll have to leave early. Or plan activities that help to reduce anxiety and stress or boost your mood (board games, physical challenges, or movie time)

We have to give ourselves and others grace because we only have this one body and one nervous system, and we deserve to take care of ourselves.