Preparing for Family Stress
Updated: Jan 10, 2019
Holidays can often be a challenging time for those who experience family conflict, or have distanced themselves from unhelpful/unhealthy family patterns. Going “home”, visiting family, or hosting guests can trigger negative emotions, often leading us to react in ways that are unhealthy for us and even detrimental to our relationships. Increase your confidence and decrease your stress surrounding family interactions by preparing to respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively. It is not too early to prepare.
Practice some coping skills. You want to have skills such a deep breathing, tensing/relaxing muscle groups, listening to music, etc. You can use these coping skills to help reduce your distress when you are feeling anxious, angry, or even depressed. Try printing out a list of coping strategies and begin to practice a few in preparation for challenging social interactions.
Learn to communicate assertively - assertiveness is expressing your thoughts and emotions clearly and respectfully without aggression. Aggression values and respects only your feelings, but assertiveness expresses your needs and feelings while also respecting the thoughts and feelings of the other person. Take time to learn how to communicate assertively.
Learn how to set a boundary - an interpersonal boundary is just like the fence separating two neighbors. Learning how to verbally set a limit or an expectation and gently enforcing that boundary goes a long way.
Keep in mind: you do not have to remain in a conversation that is detrimental to your
emotional health. Respectfully exiting an unhealthy conversation is a great boundary!
You can also limit conflict by refusing the participate in triangles.
A triangle is when a third person is pulled into a conflict. This often results in unhealthy
dynamics and it puts additional strain on the person who is pulled into the conflict.
A few ways to de-traingulate yourself include:
Resist the urge to “vent” to someone else. This usually results in the listener agreeing with you about how horrible the other person is. This doesn’t solve the problem, and it often just makes you feel more angry/justified rather than helping you better understand the conflict, the other person’s perspectives and potential solutions. When you are in a conflict and the other person pulls a third person into the conversation you can respectfully refuse to enter into the triangle. You could say, “Thanks for caring, but I need to solve this problem with so-and-so directly. I don’t want to put you in the middle”.When someone tries to drag you into a conflict that doesn’t involve you, you can say, “I hope you work that out, but it sounds like you two need to work things out”.