Facing the Holidays: How to Cope with Anxiety about Unyielding Family Members

You’ve spent 11 months avoiding them. But now there’s nowhere to turn. Even though you love your family deeply, there are a few relatives that you find “unyielding.” And that’s being diplomatic!

For the rest of the year you keep them at arm’s reach. But there’s now way of escaping the holidays. In the past they have just driven you up the wall, or worse. No wonder the thought of having to spend even an hour with them is anxiety-inducing.

So, what can you do? If you are facing the holidays with unyielding family members, consider these suggestions for how to best cope.

Work Out Before the Family Gathering

Really? Yes! Exercise has been shown to be a healthy way to manage anxiety. For example:

  • You have an outlet to physically release pent-up energy.
  • It allows you to shift your focus away from the worry and anxiety.
  • Exercise releases dopamine and other mood-enhancing neurochemicals.

Besides, working out before a holiday meal is helpful for your appetite too. If you are planning on spending an extended period with your family, schedule a workout time each day. This also gives you an excuse to take some space from family and have personal time alone.

Keep a Friend on Speed-Dial

Need to talk to someone about how your relatives get on your nerves or drive you up the wall? Have a friend or two with whom you can call when feeling stressed-out. Communicate with them ahead of time of your intentions and needs. Offer to be a support for them too as they cope with the holidays.

This way you don’t feel alone and isolated. In fact, it might surprise you how many of your friends also feel the same way about their relatives!

Set Boundaries

When you are with family, set firm boundaries. For example:

  • If you are talking with a family member and the conversation goes way off-topic, firmly but diplomatically steer things back on track. If they continue, tell them firmly you don’t want to go there.
  • Have set arrival and departure times. These allow you to enter and exit gracefully, but on your terms.
  • When concerned about overindulging with alcohol, set a limit for yourself.
  • Don’t let other family members pressure you into drinking at all or too much if that’s something you are avoiding.

Remember, you have a say in how you want to be treated. That’s true, whether or not it’s the holidays.

Gathering Remotely During the Holidays

Even when gathering virtually, you can still cope with anxiety. In fact, remote gatherings may even help a little more with anxiety management. For instance:

  • You have control over when you log on and log off.
  • Travel (whether it’s across town or the country) is not required, which means less stress.
  • It’s possible to have a chat window open with a friend or be texting while still on the remote call.
  • There’s less stress from having to be physically present with your relatives.

When you think about it, if family holiday gatherings stress you out, then a remote gathering may actually help you better cope with your anxiety this year.

Taking Time to Talk

Because the holidays are so stressful, it’s a good idea to be working with a therapist before the season begins. However, it’s never too late to book an appointment with a counselor. Therapy will help you better manage your anxiety and stress. You can learn coping skills to keep your anxiety under control. Plus, you will have a healthy place to vent where your perspective is honored and valued.

Family can be stressful regardless if it’s the holidays or not. Knowing how to cope in ways that support your mental health will be critical to get through the season. If you think you need more help, don’t hesitate to reach out today about anxiety treatment, 256-686-9195.

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