1. The loss of a family member:

If you’ve lost a family member recently, frequent company and gatherings may intensify the pain of that loss. It’s funny; sometimes being solitary can seem more comforting simply because the person’s absence is noticed and felt more in social situations. However, try not to seclude yourself; being around loved ones can be a very healthy and effective coping mechanism, so long as you are open about your emotions. It is important to not bury your feelings or feel like you have to put on a “happy face” just because the people around you are in a good mood. Allow yourself to grieve your loss, while also taking comfort in the people who are still around. Find some way to honor the person who is gone – maybe say a few words about them during a family or group meal. When you are alone, make sure to engage in positive and healthy coping strategies, such as exercise and meditation.

2. Eating disorders:

Being in a social setting, especially one surrounded by food, is super tough for those who struggle with eating disorders. With the food piled high and everyone asking you to taste their yummy creations, it can feel like hell. The most important thing to do is plan, plan, plan. Work with your therapist to devise specific guidelines you can follow at each social event you attend. Create a list of coping skills you can use if you begin to feel overwhelmed, like counting backwards from 100 while taking deep breaths, or taking a walk around the block. Remember that being compassionate with yourself is always the key to feeling better. Don’t get mad at yourself if you eat too much or too little – stick to your plan the best you can and eventually you will find these situations become easier and easier.

3. LGBTQ identity and shame:

If you have family members who are not tolerant or kind and you are forced to spend time with them due to birthdays, weddings, and holiday gatherings, the best thing to do is make a plan to connect with people in your support network who will also be there. If feelings of shame or loneliness arise, be sure you have a friend to text, so you can feel connected and grounded with your tribe. Also, remember it is okay to not participate in every event you’re invited to. If you’re exhausted and you can’t imagine gathering the energy to attend one more hetero-centric celebration, allow yourself to rest. But be careful not to isolate – reach out to the people in your life who do know and love you for who you are, and spend time with people who lift you up, not drag you down.

4. Political disagreement within your family:

We all have that aunt or uncle who has outdated or contentious political views. If you have to spend time with those who live on the other end of the political spectrum, my advice is to avoid political discourse. You have to ask yourself, “Is it worth getting all worked-up emotionally when I am probably not going to change this person’s mind or see them again for a long while?” If possible, save your political energies for those grassroots organizations you give your time and money to – where you can really make a change. And when you do find yourself surrounded by these worrisome individuals, find other non-contentious topics to discuss. Also, feel free to set a boundary with those that won’t let it go. Say you would rather choose a different discussion point or focus on more positive things at this time. Don’t feel pressure to engage if you know it won’t end well.

5. Being single:

Social gatherings like weddings, engagement parties, and birthdays can quickly become a reminder that you are missing that someone special in your life, but it doesn’t need to be this way. When feelings of loneliness pop up try to redirect them into an opportunity to reach out to the other important relationships in your life or to engage in activities that excite you or bring you a sense of wellbeing. Taking action will only serve to empower you and, you never know, you may make a new friend or find a new hobby while you’re at it.

6. Introducing a new significant other:

Yay!  You have a new partner!  But now you have to take them to meet the whole family? Yikes!  Don’t panic. Do a little preparation by telling your family a little about your partner and your partner a little about your family before any meetings take place. Keep conversations light if possible. Check in with your partner by asking “How’s it going?  Do we need a break and a walk around the block?”  Be gentle with yourself, your partner, and your family. And laugh as much as possible.

For more information on Sober College, please visit: www.sobercollege.com

Author's Bio: 

Holly Daniels, PhD, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, meditation teacher and mental health advocate. She brings her many years of experience working in dual diagnosis treatment to her role as Clinical Systems Director at Sober College. After earning her degree in clinical psychology, Holly worked for many years as a primary therapist at Monte Nido and Associates, the Valley Community Clinic and The Canyon residential treatment center in Malibu, where she specialized in treating those with complex issues including co-occurring addictions, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and associated mood and anxiety disorders.
As the Clinical Systems Director at Sober College, Holly contributes her complex clinical expertise to enhance and support clinical operations within Sober College treatment centers and utilizes her passion for relationship building and business development to collaborate with professionals and families in the recovery and mental health communities. Holly shares Sober College’s dedication to encouraging and promoting self-discovery and resiliency toward long-term, sustained recovery for every young adult who comes in for treatment. She feels fortunate to be able to continue her life’s work alongside the compassionate, expert, invigorating team at Sober College.
A mother to two teenagers, Holly relies on her personal daily meditation practice to bring balance to her own life, and she enjoys teaching meditation and mindfulness skills to others. “I believe,” explains Holly, “that healing involves building connections with other healthy people and creating fulfilling, meaningful life experiences outside of treatment. Sober College offers young adults opportunities to do just that.” Holly loves watching clients grow, heal, learn gratitude and develop passions as they practice interacting with the world in life-affirming ways. “I feel fortunate to be part of such an innovative and effective team, and honored to be even a small part of our clients’ journeys.”