“Gather !?…..The Stress of Family and The Holidays”
Do family gatherings raise your anxiety to a “whole nutta’ level”? Does seeing that overly opinionated or critical relative stress you out ? If holidays are intended to be a celebration, why do we often experience so much stress at family gatherings ? Families are a “system” and when pulled all together the “system” has a dynamic that plays out and each family member has a role in that dynamic. Often members of the family have pre-established roles due to birth order, gender, family rules and rituals. Stress on the family “system’ can heighten at times if there has been significant shifts or changes in the system….ie…death, divorce, marriages, health changes of key family members, unresolved hurt or a history of trauma. A dynamic of criticism or poignant sarcasm can be a characteristic of the “system” or of a few of the “system” members. On the converse, a family system can also posses characteristics of encouragement, positivity and grace. What is your families dynamic ? Which characteristic do you bring to the family…kindness or criticism ?
As the saying goes “we can’t choose our family”….but we can choose our words and actions wisely. Here are some tips on how to create change in your role of your family dynamics:
- Accept family members as they are, work to find ways to show love and support for relatives that are withdrawn and quiet and/or connect with the loud and rowdy; each are seeking attention and affirmation, just in their own unique way.
- Practice the Fruits of the Spirit- Galatians 5:22 “Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
- Determine your limits and boundaries, say “no” when needed, if anxiety builds up limit the time you discuss tense topics or the time you interact with relatives that trigger your anxiety.
- Manage expectations of yourself and others; evaluate if expectations are realistic or idealistic. Unmet expectations can cause disappointment and/or feelings of rejection.
This holiday season focus less on how you would like others to behave or react and challenge yourself to respond differently. We can only control ourselves, not others. “Kill ‘em with kindness,” changes may or may not occur in the family system as a whole, but you may find you experience less anxiety, decrease your disappointment and feel better about how you treated others.