People’s worst characteristics can sometimes be brought out during family gatherings. Stay out of the drama by anticipating potential sources of stress and making every effort to reduce the desire to rekindle old grudges. Take a step back from tense situations. Reduce the number of expectations you have for how the family gathering should proceed. Focus on appreciating the good things in life and taking care of yourself in order to reduce your stress levels.
Part 1 Handling Triggers that Lead to Drama
1. Prepare yourself for potential stressors. Consider the stressors that you may encounter before attending a family gathering. Perhaps you’re concerned about having to deal with an obnoxious aunt or listening to your mother make disparaging remarks about your cooking. Because you’ll be more aware of your surroundings, you’ll be better prepared to deal with potential triggers.
Think about making a list of the most common stressors that you encounter when you’re at a family gathering. Then consider various options for dealing with them.
The greater your awareness of what is going to bother you, the greater your ability to control how you will react to that situation.
It is important not to fill your mind with negative thoughts and expectations! Identify potential stressors and devise a strategy for dealing with them before attending the family gathering with an open mind and the expectation that everyone will behave appropriately.
2. Prepare a strategy for how you will respond in advance. Preparing and possibly practising a response to specific family members will depend on the sources of stress and drama at your family gatherings. Prepare a contingency plan for situations that appear to be out of your control so that you don’t end up feeling disappointed again.
Suppose you’re going through a break-up or have experienced a recent setback at work. You may be apprehensive about talking about your relationship or job. Instead of becoming agitated when people ask you these types of questions, consider having a standard response that makes it simple to move on and then change the topic of conversation. Find ways to keep the conversation focused on general topics rather than on emotionally charged personal issues.
For example, consider the following stock response: “Sometimes we have no control over how things turn out, but we just have to keep trying to move forward.” Did you happen to catch the championship game last night on television? “It was a very intense experience.” If the other person continues to press the issue, remember that it is perfectly acceptable to respond with, “You know, I’d really rather not talk about that right now.” Thanks.”
Have a contingency plan in place for yourself or your children in case the family gathering turns out to be boring or the scheduled time for dinner turns out to be later than expected. For example, children can become bored more easily and hungry more frequently than adults. Have some games or toys available for them to play at the event to keep them occupied when they become bored, as well as a supply of extra snacks in case they become hungry during the event.
3. Make use of a friend or partner to serve as a buffer. Depending on who you’re bringing, having a friend or partner present may be beneficial in reducing the amount of drama. If your current partner or spouse is generally reserved, you should discuss your concerns about potential family drama with them. Instruct them to assist you in remaining calm in stressful situations. Alternatively, you could bring a neighbour or friend who could provide a welcome distraction during the gathering.
A friend, coworker, or neighbour may be able to divert attention away from you and encourage others to behave more appropriately in front of new company. It is possible that this friend will act as a “wingman,” allowing you to exit the room early or avoid certain confrontations with other people. If a difficult uncle tries to bring up politics, your friend could step in and start talking about the latest blockbuster movie in the theatre.
Take the time to discuss with your partner the possibility of intervening in certain situations involving your parents or siblings. For example, you and your partner might want to talk about your concerns that you and your sister might get into a fight over religious beliefs. The benefit of giving your partner advance notice is that they may be able to subtly remind you to keep your cool and move on from the argument.
4. It is best not to use this opportunity to air your grievances. Perhaps you and your brother have a long-standing grudge that you’re concerned will resurface and become a source of conflict. People attend family gatherings in order to have a good time, and they do not want to be dragged into old family feuds that they remember from their childhood.
During the family gathering, try to let go of any grudges you may have. Even if issues are still unresolved, family gatherings are not the appropriate setting in which to discuss them. Scheduling one-on-one time with the person you need to speak with may be the best option. If the resentment is still raw, it may be best to avoid this family gathering altogether. Make sure to catch the next one, though, in order to avoid a rift within the extended family.
If you feel as though you will never be able to forgive the person, try to direct your attention to other people who make you feel supported while at the event.
Part 2 Coping in the Moment
1. Take a deep breath and maintain your composure. Consider how you want to conduct yourself, with the goal of remaining calm and focused. For a few moments, close your eyes and focus on your breathing only. Take your thoughts away from the stress of the present moment and direct them toward a state of calm and tranquilly.
You might want to try some breathing exercises, such as slowly inhaling and holding your breath, and then slowly exhaling and releasing your breath.
Turn off the people or conversations that are a source of stress at that particular time of the day or night. Concentrate on how you want to feel in command of your own destiny. By doing so, you can avoid becoming embroiled in or becoming the centre of family conflict.
Before the gathering, engage in visualisation exercises that transport you to a happy, peaceful state of mind. This will enable you to more easily recall these images from memory when the occasion arises.
2. Resist the temptation to argue or fight with someone. Avoid reacting in an angry, hurt, or upset manner right away. If it appears that the other side is simply looking for a fight, remember that fighting back and arguing with them will almost certainly result in a dead end.
If you notice yourself becoming agitated, pay attention to your body. Even before you become agitated, you may experience physical signs of stress.
If at all possible, be courteous and demonstrate to them that you are not interested in inciting arguments or creating drama.
Consider expressing yourself in ways such as, “I understand that you’re having a bad day. I’m not interested in arguing or fighting about this. I want this time with our family to be enjoyable and enjoyable for everyone involved. Is it possible to call a halt for the time being?”
3. Taking a step back and getting some fresh air can help you cool down. When attending family gatherings that are likely to be stressful, give yourself some breathing room. It is preferable to excuse yourself and go for a walk rather than to remain seated and become increasingly unhappy.
Consider taking a walk around the neighbourhood or the event area if your family is casually sitting around and having a picnic, for example. You will be able to clear your mind in this manner. A small amount of physical activity can aid in the reduction of stress hormones.
Especially if the gathering is formal, such as a sit-down Christmas dinner, you might want to consider excuse yourself from the table and going into a private room such as the bathroom or walking to another part of the house.
Additionally, you can excuse yourself and call a friend who can assist you in calming down and remembering your objectives.
4. Expectations should be kept as simple as possible. When it comes to family gatherings, it’s normal to have high expectations, especially if you’re the one hosting or assisting with the preparations. If your dinner plans are a little off or some of your guests’ travel plans change, try to avoid thinking in terms of all-or-nothing thinking, which makes you feel like you’ve failed.
Be conscious of the fact that life is full of small pitfalls and that things do not always go as planned.
Instead of becoming upset when things change, try to be a source of calm and peace for others. By acknowledging that we are all human, you will be less likely to judge yourself and others in the future. Attempt to say things like, “Oh well, that’s life. What matters is that we’re all together and having a good time as a family.”
Part 3 Appreciating the Positive
1. When you’re with family, remember to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Instead of attempting to correct or criticise others, try to concentrate on their good intentions and kindness instead of their faults. For example, your mother or aunt may wish to lend a hand in the kitchen with your cooking. They may come across as attempting to exert control over the situation, but consider their offer to assist as an expression of generosity.
If someone has a complaint about the event, try to include them rather than being offended by their judgments or dismissing them completely. For example, if your cousin enjoys having a fire going during Christmas dinner, enlist their assistance or the assistance of a trusted adult in setting it up. Do not intercede and try to accommodate everyone at the same time. This can lead to resentment and the feeling of being a disappointment. Instead, encourage them to take care of their own requirements. As an example, “That sounds absolutely wonderful. I encourage you, if it is your preference, to start a fire.”
Offer words of appreciation when you notice that someone is attempting to be helpful, even if it comes across as a little awkward at first. Things like “I really appreciate your ideas” or “Thank you, I’ll take that into consideration next time” are appropriate.
2. Spend the majority of your time participating in enjoyable group activities. Distract yourself from any stressful or negative interactions by engaging in games, movies, or other lighthearted activities. When you do something together as a family that isn’t just bickering, you can strengthen your bond and develop stronger connections. Consider the following types of activities to assist in maintaining positive interactions:
Play board games that will keep everyone’s attention and involvement. Consider games that are appropriate for a variety of age levels so that they will be appealing to both children and adults.
Consider participating in team games such as Charades. Instead of arguing with one another, this can help to foster a sense of belonging among the group.
Make sweet treats and desserts with your friends by getting them to work together. Making things in the kitchen with your family can be a great way to strengthen your relationship.
For the whole family, watch a lighthearted comedy film together. Create the impression that the entire group is heading to the movie theatre. Keeping the drama at bay when people are quietly watching a movie instead of arguing can help to keep things calm.
3. Thank you for everything. However, while your family may occasionally drive you insane, it is critical that you keep your focus on being grateful for what you have, as well as the opportunity to spend quality time with them. Think about someone who has recently lost a loved one, and send them positive thoughts or a prayer in their honour. This can assist you in feeling more thankful for what you have in your life. By focusing on your feelings of gratitude, you can improve both your emotional and physical health. When you are grateful for the moments that you share with others, you will experience less stress.
Instead of focusing your negative energy on the people who make your life stressful, choose three or more family members who are supportive and caring that you will come into contact with. When you’re feeling down, think about how generous they were toward you.
Spend the majority of your time helping others. When possible, lend a hand at a family gathering. Make a donation of your time or resources to make the event memorable. Consider collaborating with others to make things easier for everyone.
4. Take some time for yourself to help you relax and unwind. You should refrain from making family gatherings last for an excessive amount of time! If things are going well, wrap them up and don’t allow them to deteriorate by requiring them to last longer than they should have been allowed to. Keep in mind to take your time and to love yourself. Prepare a list of activities that will help you cope with stress and reclaim your sense of self. Take a look at these self-care activities:
Get a massage or take a hot bath.
Practice meditation or yoga.
Have a warm drink with a friend.
Exercise, go to the gym, or take a walk.
Find a peaceful, private space such as the outdoors or a bookstore.
Listen to soothing music and get plenty of rest.
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