Visiting family can often be a great time to reconnect with loved ones. However, it is possible that family drama and past grievances can bubble up during these visits. Depending on your extended family dynamics, this could range from little spats to knock-down-drag-out fights. Chances are, you know the trigger points for you and your family members. This is especially true if the drama follows a continued cycle.
You might even feel your anxiety or depression spike when a gathering gets close. You don’t have to get sucked into the drama though. There are ways to avoid it and break the cycle. Keep reading to learn how you can avoid family drama and boost your self-care.
Past trauma or family drama can take its toll on your mental health. Sometimes you might feel like you’re the odd man out or the family is against you. Seeking counsel from an unbiased third party can help you sort out your feelings and find truth. Finding a counselor or therapist you can trust could help and put you on the path to healing. They could also provide you with some tools to prepare you for seeing your family.
There are times when talk therapy alone isn’t enough. In those instances, you may need to talk to a provider about prescription options for your anxiety or depression. Medication can be another tool in your kit for overall mental health wellness. It can help you regulate your thoughts and slow your body down when it feels like you’re starting to spiral. Your provider can work with you to find the medication and dosage that works best for you.
Once you have addressed your mental health, take a look at the other areas of your life. How is your sleep? Are you getting enough water each day? Your overall wellness needs to be addressed because the physical and mental aspects of your life impact each other. If you are lacking sleep, for example, it could make you more irritable.
This, in turn, could cause you to be more likely to snap when drama arises at a family function. Work on getting enough sleep each night and eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods. Moving your body through exercise is also a great practice. Not only can this help with your physical health, but movement also helps stabilize your brain chemistry, mood, and mental health.
If you’re wanting to avoid drama, it’s likely you’ve been letting it impact you. It’s important to remember that as an adult, you are in charge of your feelings and emotional regulation. No one can make you feel a certain way if you don’t let them. Decide who you will allow access to your heart and feelings.
If someone tries to chat you up and suck you in with gossip, you don’t have to take the bait either. Count to ten, and try to respond in a non-charged way. If you want to stay out of the gutter, don’t add to the hearsay either. Resist the urge to join in and complain about others. Talk about people the way you’d want others to talk about you. That might even mean not at all.
If certain family members aren’t safe for you to be around physically or emotionally, you don’t have to see them. Blood is not a guaranteed pass to your life. Set boundaries and assert them to honor yourself. This could mean that if aunt Bessie is coming to Thanksgiving, you opt to make other plans for yourself. To a lesser extreme, you could go and try to just avoid one-on-one interactions with her.
When you set your boundaries, make them known in a calm way. If people choose to violate your boundary, that means they are opting out of a relationship with you. Setting these parameters for your life is hard. Most people don’t like it when they come up against a firm boundary. Do your best to communicate why you feel this way and what your needs are.
Find ways to cope with the stressful dynamic of your relatives. Letting it all bottle up is a recipe for a Mentos in a Coke bottle situation – Boom! Each grievance adds another Mentos to the bottle until you burst. This could come out in a myriad of ways from crying to yelling. Or you might find yourself listing out every issue you’ve had for the last 22 years.
Find ways to let off steam and pour out your emotions. Taking a walk or run to clear your head or lifting weights might work for you. A bubble bath with calming music might help. Some find journaling therapeutic. Find your go-to coping strategy to ground yourself. Try to pick a healthy strategy as well. It’s best to avoid coping mechanisms like alcohol, smoking, or gambling.
The hope is that time with family is restorative and relaxing. Unfortunately, not all relatives have that dynamic. Or, you might have a great time with family aside from one or two people. If you feel anxiety or a sense of dread welling up, sit with that and explore those feelings. Find why you feel that way, and explore any emotions that come up. You don’t have to get sucked into the family drama. Follow the tips listed above for ideas on how to avoid it and break the cycle. You can take care of yourself while also enjoying family time. Boost your self-care and remember, it’s okay to put yourself first.