Stressful Family? 10 Mantras to Get You Through the Holidays

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Is your family happy and supportive? Are your holiday family gatherings warm, loving and festive? If so, that is wonderful. And you can stop reading this article now.

Is your family complicated? Do you often feel hurt, pained, disappointed, damaged, or let down when your family is together? If so, this article is for you. Never fear, help is here. (For more about painful family dynamics, take a look at last week’s article, 4 Subtle Family Dynamics That Can Ruin Your Holidays.)

No, of course we can’t fix your family issues before this year’s holiday gathering. But we can give you some new tools to get you through it. One of the most powerful tools to cope with a painful family is a mantra. It’s a sentence that you repeat inside your head over and over throughout the day. You can call upon it whenever you need to feel calmer and stronger.  It serves to remind you what’s really going on in your family. It focuses your attention, and it provides you with the strength and resolve to get you through the day.

While going through the list below, choose the one that feels most right to you. It should be one that you can feel in your gut. It should make you feel a little stronger as you say it.

Here are Ten Mantras to choose from:

  1. I didn’t cause this problem, and I can’t fix it. Almost never did one member of a family cause the problem. And almost NEVER can one member of a family fix the problem. The best you can do is tolerate it, and this mantra will help you do so.
  2. It’s not my fault. In most families, the people who are the least guilty feel the most guilt. Don’t succumb to it. Fight it with this mantra.
  3. Just smile and get through it. This mantra works for families that have low tolerance for anything negative, and require everyone to seem happy (an example of Emotional Neglect).
  4. This is not a competition. Sibling rivalry? This mantra can help you stay out of it.
  5. There’s not enough love to go around in this family. This is helpful for a family in which one or both parents are not capable of the type of love that the children need. It will make you less vulnerable to the feeling that you’re unlovable.
  6. I am a loveable person. This mantra approaches the “not enough love” problem from a different angle. You’re reassuring yourself to fight off that painful feeling.
  7. My parents can’t give me what they never got. This is helpful for the emotionally neglectful family. If your parents were not emotionally validated by their parents, they will not be able to respond emotionally to you. This mantra will remind you that it’s no one’s fault. It just is.
  8. Today, I’m giving my family the gift of tolerance. This mantra helps you continually reframe the discomfort you are putting up with as a generous gift (which it is!)
  9. It’s not just me. Everyone is hurting in this family. If you feel pained by your family issues, then chances are, so does everyone else. Most bad behavior is actually an expression of pain. Use this mantra to remind yourself that you are not alone in this.
  10. Who cares what _____________ thinks? If you have a mean or attacking family member: mother, father, sib, aunt, uncle or grandparent, this mantra will make you less vulnerable to their jabs.

If you have a different mantra that has worked for you in the past, or one to suggest, please help other readers by sharing it in the Comments below.

To learn more about Emotional Neglect in families, how invisible it can be, and how to recover from it, see the book Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty. 

This article was originally published on and has been republished here with the permission of the author and PsychCentral.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Robert - November 24, 2022 Reply

Thank you for this article. I’m really searching for a mantra to get thru a painful family visit shortly after a very deep health scare with a different, good, member. Can’t avoid the entire visit, since it may be the good member’s last holiday season. Trying to find something I truly believe. Like “I love me, and their hate/pain isn’t my problem.” But I struggle with self love so a lot of build ups feel like masking. Any mantras you go-to when you wanna build up a temporary wall and not allow someone to effect you thru gaslighting or passive aggressive attacks?

    Jonice - November 24, 2022 Reply

    Dear Robert, how about, “Their pain is not my pain and I will not take it on.” I’m sorry you are dealing with this difficult family situation. Be sure to take care of yourself.

Phoenix Rising - December 14, 2020 Reply

My mother died two weeks ago, she was almost 90. During the vigil and at the funeral, I realised the abject contempt/hatred my siblings have for me, simply for speaking the truth about our family dysfunction and secrets. I’m definitely the scapegoat. I knew they resented me, but my mother’s death gave me a clarity about the extent of their contempt and abuse I never had before. This was following an emotionally abusive relationship with a psychopath which I left a year ago- and learned heaps from. Yes, I kept repeating the pattern of abuse. No more! I have made the decision to not have my siblings- all seven of them- in my life again. I feel relieved and at peace now because my self-respect and integrity are more important than being part of an extremely abusive family. I will be spending the holidays with my children interstate and their respective partners. Looking forward to it. I have a simple mantra- LET GO.

    Jonice - December 14, 2020 Reply

    Dear Phoenix, what a lot of strength you are showing. I hope your words will inspire many others to put their own integrity and needs first and protect themselves from the harmful people in their lives.

    Patricia - December 22, 2020 Reply

    Thanks exactly what I need. These mantras releases me from feeling guilty and pushes me to self care. Again Thanks

      Jonice - December 23, 2020 Reply

      I’m so glad, Patricia.

Anna - December 13, 2020 Reply

Just focus on now, work with what is in front of you get in touch with yourself and be patient.

    Jonice - December 13, 2020 Reply

    Good mantras, Anna. Thanks for sharing!

Rebecca Duff - December 25, 2018 Reply

The mantra “It’s not just me, everyone is hurting in this family” really hit home. I have mentally exhausted/broken parents, a very sick brother and a complicated childhood behind me. I love my parents but I don’t honestly know HOW to change things… “Hurt people hurt people” is a quote I’ve come across, and is true in my family

    Jonice - December 25, 2018 Reply

    Dear Rebecca you talk about your family with compassion while also realizing you must protect yourself from them. That is a well earned, difficult place to be and a sign of strength. Happy holidays to you.

    Rebeca - December 14, 2020 Reply

    Thanks, Rebecca, for modelling generosity towards those that may have hurt you in the past. I will add your thoughts to my repertoire for those times when I feel overwhelmed by the pain that was inflicted on me and that which I inflicted on others.

Denise - December 24, 2018 Reply

My mantra will be “I take over the custody of my own! I have enough love, support and compassion to give to my inner child!”

    Jonice - December 24, 2018 Reply

    That’s a great one Denise!

Siobhan Foley - December 24, 2018 Reply

This too shall pass

    Jonice - December 24, 2018 Reply

    Short and sweet. And true. I like that one!

Laurie Staalberg - December 24, 2018 Reply

This is the first year I have officially chosen to not participate in the family festivities, at age 59. I’ve learned to be truthful and respectful to myself, over others, instead of putting others first. Getting together for two hours for dinner, just wasn’t worth the emotional suffering that occurred before, during, and after. I just had to take myself out of that revolving door syndrome. And I’m more emotionally stable because of it. I will save a mantra for when I will need it. Thanks, Jonice, for being our soft spot to fall.

    Jonice - December 24, 2018 Reply

    Good for you Laurie for putting yourself first. Happy healthy holidays to you!

Kareb - December 24, 2018 Reply

I am giving myself the gift of not spending time with my family. My brother and I are all that is left and he mirrors my dad more than my mom. My last visit (which cost me 1500 dollars) left me feeling that I no longer belonged there. He has his wife. They are a family. I am no longer a part of that now that our mother has passed. I have made my peace with never seeing them in this life.

    Jonice - December 24, 2018 Reply

    Dear Kareb, I am sorry about this. That can feel so bad. I hope you will spend the holidays wit people you feel close and connected with. Best wishes to you this holiday season!!

Annie - December 23, 2018 Reply

“I don’t need her validation. I am a complete and kind person no matter what she thinks.

    Jonice - December 24, 2018 Reply

    Beautiful Annie!

Susanna Goldman - December 23, 2018 Reply

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Jonice, for all the very helpful tips and information you have made available to so many people. For me personally, the holidays are always hard emotionally and I just picked my mantra to get me through it. You are the only person that truly gets what I feel, and thanks to you I now understand where it all originated. I will be 66 shortly and will probably experience these painful feelings for the rest of my life, but because of you I have some very effective tools to fight back. I‘m mostly a happy person but these feelings just pop up in certain situations.
Thank you again and a very happy holiday to you and your Family.

    Jonice - December 24, 2018 Reply

    That is wonderful Susanna. Keep on fighting for yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself, and I am proud of you for doing it!

Dorothy - December 23, 2018 Reply

What’s the mantra when family is gone and memories haunt?

    Jonice - December 24, 2018 Reply

    Dear Dorothy, how about three “I am’s”? Like: I am okay. I am strong. I am able to do this. If these aren’t quite right, tailor them to be your own. Then put those old memories away, where they belong. I wish you happy holidays.

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