If you’re like most people, you may have certain situations that cause you to stress.
It may be speaking in public or waiting in line at the grocery store. Or it could be attending family gatherings.
Situations causing stress are unique to each person. However, for many, family gatherings rank fairly high on the list of stress-inducing events.
For various reasons, those type of events can quickly create anxiety. And finding an efficient way to cope with that anxiety may be more than you bargained for in terms of family life.
Here are a few ways to safeguard your peace of mind before your next family event.
Understanding Anxiety at Family Gatherings
Within every family runs a deep history. Often, past happenings create a certain complexity. In short, the dynamics of your family may have set you up for feeling anxious when getting together with them again.
And it’s not necessarily that you don’t care for everyone in your family. Even having a negative history with just one single family member may force you to cope with anxiety before a family gathering.
First and foremost, avoid getting down on yourself because you’re not ecstatic about going to the family event. Remember, you may care but you also feel complicated emotions.
Perhaps you’re introverted, disliking small talk. Or you’re uncomfortable talking about things to which you simply can’t relate, such as politics or sports, for example. Furthermore, for many people, attending a family gathering also means playing a role. Unable to feel like or be your authentic self, you may put on a mask just to get through the event.
How to Identify What You’re Feeling
Keep in mind, not all negative emotions equate to feelings of anxiety. Dreading a family gathering isn’t exactly the same as being anxious because of it. But, they are closely related. Dread may quickly turn into anxiety if left unchallenged.
When you dread a family gathering, you may feel discomfort or unpleasant feelings at the idea of attending. Perhaps you feel ashamed that you still haven’t landed the epic job your family expected you to. Or tension exists between you and another family member.
Sure, facing these negative emotions is going to be uncomfortable. Hence, to dread attending the gathering seems natural.
However, when those annoying and fearful thoughts begin to interrupt your life, it’s important to find a way to cope with anxiety. Because, at that point, anxiety is exactly what has taken hold of you.
Ways to Cope with Anxiety
To cope with anxiety, ask yourself if you truly need to attend the family gathering. Give yourself permission to make the decision to go or not. Weigh your options and gauge your emotional reaction to each option.
Essentially, ask yourself if there is another way to celebrate an event rather than attend the gathering.
Coping with Anxiety at a Big Event
For example, in the case of a big wedding, there is likely no other option other than attending.
Rather than feeling trapped somewhere you’d rather not be, empower yourself with choices. Create an escape route and give yourself room to decide when you’re going to leave. Or have conversation topics in mind to steer an uncomfortable or uninteresting conversation in another direction.
Coping with Anxiety at a Small Event
An example of a small event is attending a baby shower. Perhaps your husband’s ex-wife is also going to be there and you’d rather just skip the entire event. But you also want to show your support for the new mother.
So, give yourself the option to only stay a few minutes. Another route would be to take the mother-to-be out by herself to show your support, skipping the baby shower altogether.
Keep in mind, no matter how you decide to cope with anxiety, do it in a healthy way. Meaning, avoid anxiety-induced binge drinking or overeating.
To cope with anxiety surrounding a family gathering may require some outside assistance. A therapist can help to identify why you feel anxious or dread a certain event. They can also guide you in establishing healthy ways to approach the situation.