Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress, and is therefore unavoidable, as every individual will experience stress at some point in his or her life. Helpguide International explains anxiety as “the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response that is triggered when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a challenging situation, such as a job interview, exam, or first date.” Most family gatherings are intended to be full of joy, family, friends, laughter, and fun, but they can also come with layers of anxiety, sadness, and stress. Rejoining the fold of your family and friends during what can be a high stress environment can be incredibly nerve wracking. For individuals struggling with anxiety, it is advantageous to have a few tips at the forefront of your mind to help you effectively manage your anxiety during family gatherings. Consider the following suggestions to help set yourself up for success:
- Think ahead and come prepared: Anxiety feeds off stress of the unknown. The less prepared you are for an event, the more anxious you feel heading into it. Coming up with a plan before you arrive can relieve some of the anticipatory anxiety.
- Anticipate triggers: Before you enter a situation that may be riddled with triggers, do some reflection work so you can anticipate the things that could trigger your anxiety. What exactly is making you feel nervous? Are you overwhelmed when things get too loud? Do long conversations make you feel trapped? Do probing questions from distant family members put you on edge? Are there things you can do to minimize the stress of the triggers that may arise?
- Stay busy: Standing around with nothing to do can contribute to feelings of discomfort, nervousness, and anxiety. Finding ways to be of service (e.g., cook, tidy things up, etc.) will eliminate idle time.
- Practice your coping strategies: Draw on your coping strategies to help manage your anxiety during family gatherings.
- Have an exit strategy: One of the most important parts about making sure you can enjoy yourself and are comfortable during a family gathering is to have an exit plan. Everyone gets overwhelmed sometimes, and it is important give yourself piece of mind with an easy exit if you feel that you need to leave. Having a seamless exit strategy will allow you to feel more comfortable because you will know that should you need to leave, you can do so on your own terms, easily.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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