If spending time with family triggers your Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) symptoms of anxiety, depression, or impulsivity, or re-awakens an eating disorder or the urge to self-harm, it’s a good idea to be prepared.
Before you head off to yet another family function this holiday season, take some time to take stock of your Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skills and be prepared to weather the storm that can often be a family holiday gathering.
Here are five tips on navigating the holiday season when you have Borderline Personality Disorder:
- Have a plan. Make sure you know what your BPD triggers are so that you can do your best to avoid them. If you know your brother is going to say something to set you off, wait for him to sit down and then sit at the other end of the table. If you know that second glass of wine will make you say things you later regret, switch to sparkling cider instead. Imagine, before the event, how the event will go and how you can appropriately respond to potential stressful moments.
- Practice awareness. Check in with yourself throughout the event. Be aware of sensations in your body. Are you breathing? Are you feeling tension in your shoulders? Make an effort to remove yourself from a potentially emotionally charged situation, either physically or by taking a moment to just breathe and be quiet within yourself. You can’t control the reactions and behaviors of others, but you can be in charge of your own.
- Remember who you are. You’re not 13 anymore, though it can be easy to fall back into that mindset when you’re around parents and siblings and people who have seen you through your many life changes. As you step into that childhood home, or that circle of childhood companions, take a moment to remind yourself of who you are NOW. Take stock of the positive things you know to be true about you. Be your own best friend at the event.
- Remember who they are. Keep in mind that your family members are probably not trying to be villains. Your brother has his own motivations for saying the things he says. Maybe he is feeling stress and is spewing his off-putting rhetoric in an effort to make himself look better. Maybe he hasn’t taken the time to take stock of himself before stepping into the family gathering. It can be a very freeing thing to realize that it’s not really all about you.
- Recover. If possible, it’s a good idea to plan for a day of recovery after the event. Even for those who don’t suffer from symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, being with family can be exhausting and emotionally draining. If you can take some quiet time to gather yourself together, it can make it easier to transition back into life as you know it.