The Three-Step Toxic Family Cleanse

According to my extremely anecdotal and highly-unscientific research, despite the musical claim that the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, about 90 to 95 percent of the population spends at least part of the holidays with relatives who do not bring out the best in us. Relatives whose opinions and stances on politics, race, religion and the lives of everyone in the room cause stress, strife and strain.

It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by the rush of relief you feel upon exiting the home/town/state where these people dwell. You may think you have recovered from the trauma merely by exiting the situation, but in reality, the damage done during the holidays can keep on giving the whole year through if you’re not careful.

If you are the survivor of a toxic holiday family gathering, take these three steps to recover as you embark upon a new year.


Even family gatherings where everyone gets along and nothing goes wrong can be tiring. Gatherings with people who are angry, unhappy and critical can zap the life right out of you. Take some time to rest and allow your body, mind and spirit of recover.


Be intentional about connecting with the people in your life who build you up, make you laugh and love you just the way you are.  Go to the places that make you feel good and welcome–be that a church, a brewery, a gym, a meeting or a knitting club.  Reconnect with the people and the places that make you feel whole, human and healthy.


Time with toxic family can warp your sense of who you are and how you feel about yourself. Use these three mantras daily to help reframe your mindset.

I am not what others think of me.

Your value and worth are not determined by other people’s opinions, approval or acceptance.  It is not based on the job, the number of kids or the type of relationship that others think you should have. You know what you’re doing. You can like (and even love) who you are without anyone else’s approval.

Other people’s happiness is not my responsibility.

This doesn’t mean that you balk at making people happy, just that you refuse to shoulder the burden of people’s unhappiness. If your mother has never liked any Christmas gift you have given her, chances are it’s not because you are a bad gift-giver. If your father-in-law complains incessantly about having to do yard work and then refuses your offer to help, then his need to complain is greater than his need for assistance.  If your family is disappointed with your choice of career/partner/place of residence, that’s on them, not on you.

I am smart, strong and capable. 

Time with toxic relatives can leave you feeling like an emotional weakling, incapable of making good decisions and that your life is a total mess.  All of our lives are a little messy, but that doesn’t mean we are disasters.  Adjust this final mantra to include whatever it is you need to be reminded of in the aftermath of the holidays.

Blessings as you embark upon a new year. May it be filled with hope and healing and wholeness for all.






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