Coping with Holiday Drama

Tips for Coping with Demands and Conflict During Holidays

You’re doing your best to prevent a lupus flare and manage holiday stress. Meanwhile, you might still be struggling with demands from family and friends. Navigating relationships with loved ones when you have lupus can be challenging, especially around holidays. But there are strategies you can use to make it easier to cope.

Set Limits and Boundaries

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Some people can be demanding around holidays, whether they mean to be or not. They might need some limits and boundaries. While their demanding behavior might seem obvious to you, they might not realize how they're acting. Setting limits and boundaries requires that you communicate honestly with the other person. It requires finding friendly ways to say, “No.” Meaning, you have to put a limit to what you are willing to do, including when others try to involve you in holiday planning in ways that you are uncomfortable with. Some people respond well to boundaries and do their best to respect your wishes. Others might get offended. Be aware of this and remember that it might be hard for others to have limits set with them because they might feel embarrassed about their behavior. Or it might be difficult for them to pull back on their expectations of your relationship.

Manage Your Expectations of Others

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If a loved one is already generally unsupportive, be prepared and know that this means that they are likely also going to have a tough time being understanding around your holiday-related needs. In these cases, remember that their behavior is not new.They might be the ones to give you a hard time for not being able to make definite plans, for not attending an event, for canceling last minute, for leaving their party early, for not hopping on a plane to see them, and so on.

Take note of how they respond to your life with lupus throughout the year. They are giving you clues about how they will respond to you during holidays. These clues will help you manage your expectations of them. If you expect someone who is generally unsupportive to be supportive, you will be constantly met with disappointment. No matter what you do or say, certain people are simply not going to give you the support you need. Remember that there are people who will support you, and if possible, focus your attention on them, instead.

Realize It’s Not Personal

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Whether someone is upset because you set a limit with them, or they are unsupportive in general, remember that much of their behavior is not personal. Unless you were unkind to them, their behavior has nothing to do with you or anything you did. You are worth people’s support. Unsupportiveness can be caused by someone’s generally insensitive personality, or an inability to grasp that because someone doesn’t look sick it doesn't mean that they aren’t really sick. Some people don't know how to handle illness and distance themselves. There are many reasons that people do not offer the support you need. It’s doesn’t mean their behavior isn’t hurtful. But try to remember that it’s not a reflection of you.

Process Your Feelings

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Just because you have managed your expectations about someone's behavior doesn’t mean that you will not feel hurt at all. Plus, hurt feelings around holidays can sting more because of the expectations that most holidays should be joyous occasions. It’s important to acknowledge, experience, and process your emotions. Don’t “stuff” or ignore your feelings. They will pile up and turn into added resentment or added stress. Journaling, confiding in a supportive loved one, sharing your feelings and experiences at a support group, or speaking with your therapist are all helpful ways to cope with these emotions.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

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When it comes to unsupportive behavior, sometimes you can get by with simply smiling, nodding, processing the interaction and letting things go. But other times, you feel strongly that you should speak up. In these situations, kind but assertive communication is key. Plus, in the process you might learn something about that other person -- about why they behaved the way they did, which might give you a new perspective and help you forgive them.

Good communication skills are great tools for handling or preventing conflicts. But they are also vital for communicating your needs. In all fairness to your loved ones, certain needs might be obvious to you because you are the one experiencing your life. But these needs might not be obvious to them. It’s important to let them know what you need so that you give them a chance to do their best to meet those needs -- more responsiveness when you say you don’t feel well, to be taken seriously when you say you are tired, to help with cooking for the holidays because you don’t have the energy or stamina, etc.

Practice these Skills

These skills are the foundations to coping with lupus every day of the year. They are important to put into practice regularly. Communicating your needs, being assertive, and setting boundaries might seem hard at first, but with practice and support, after a while these skills will become a natural and effective part of your communication style. They are powerful tools that can help you cope with any holiday-related drama that your encounter.

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