Family gatherings can often be wrought with anxiety, stress, and family blowouts for many of us. If family gatherings have you reaching for yet another glass of wine, eating an entire cake and you need a week of solitary confinement to recover, this post is for you.
Entertaining, and being the host.
This is the number one stressor that can set off unpleasant family issues. Compounded with already full schedules, we feel obligated to be perfect hosts for our families who might not even appreciate our efforts. When you believe your hospitality is a demonstration of who you are, you have nothing to prove or hide.
Planning the menu. While experimenting with new recipes is a fun idea for not-so-busy occasions, at Easter less is usually best when it comes to menu planning. Stick with what you know and love to cook – your favourite salad, potato bake, corn fritters. Set up a buffet-style table where guests can help themselves, being sure to include plenty of water jugs and other drink options.
Preparation is key. One of the easiest ways to make hosting as stress-free as possible is to prepare as much as you can a day or two beforehand. This includes food prep (checking for any dietary requirements at least a week ahead), setting the table, folding and laying out napkins and any other cleaning and organising tasks that can be done prior to the day.
The company matters the most. You do not need to have the perfect party. Ditch that notion of perfection and remember that guests are coming to spend time with you and to enjoy themselves. The more relaxed you are, the more fun everyone will have.
Delegate to everyone. When someone asks, can I help, say “yes.” Everyone can help and the more someone helps you out (be it other family members or guests, the less you have to do). Let people bring things or help out in the kitchen. Just know that having people give you a hand is not a sign that you are not a good hostess. It is, instead, a tip for making everyone feel welcome, involved and part of the celebration.
The 80/20 rule. It is important to focus on the most important 20% of a project and that will take care of 80% of what must get done. This absolutely applies to hosting an event. If you focus on what is most important to you for the event (e.g. food, drinks, theme) and then let the rest go, you will find your stress level will be lower and it will be much easier for you to enjoy the event.
Attending family gatherings.
Family gatherings can cause misery to many anxiety sufferers. A particularly bothersome time for people in a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds is the holiday season. Family celebrations thrive, and for many people, anxiety skyrockets.
While it’s impossible to control the behavior of those around you, you can take measures to keep your own sense of control and reduce your stress and anxiety at family functions.
- Find an ally. Is there someone in your family who is a supporter rather than a critic? Or do you have a friend that could accompany you to the gathering? Find someone positive, and focus your attention and energy on him or her.
- Set limits. You can’t control how someone will treat you, but that doesn’t mean that you have to take everything that’s dished out. It’s okay to speak up for yourself. If doing that will worsen your anxiety, then give yourself permission to walk away. Then steer clear of the offending person as much as possible.
- Focus on what is good. Even if it seems like there are more anxiety-provoking things at your family holiday than there are calming things, if you pay attention, you’re likely to find at least one or two positives. Maybe take the kids into another room and read to them. Occupy yourself by preparing part of the meal or setting the table. Doing something even slightly enjoyable will calm your mind and reduce anxiety.
- Devise a plan before attending the family function. If you have committed and you’re going to the family function, then do not go in unprepared. Communicate ahead with your partner or family, and decide on a game plan for the day. Go over potential anxiety-inducing situations, and decide with your partner how you might deal with them. What will be your exit strategy when things start to feel stressful? What will be you secret signal for “I’m trapped in this conversation, please help me!”? Who is responsible for keeping an eye on the kids? By communicating ahead of time, everyone knows where they stand, and you may prevent arguments later.
- Alleviate Unnecessary Stress.If you know the family member hosting the party/dinner is a huge stress case, call them a week ahead and ask how you can help. Whether that means preparing some of the dishes so they don’t have to, or picking up drinks and platters on the way. Ease their load if you can.
- Choose Your Battles. There is always some family member who gives you a hard time for your life choices – whatever they may be! Your relationship status, your job, your clothes, your hockey team, your car, where you live, what you have bought recently, they have a comment on everything.
- Don’t react. Instead of reacting to a hurtful or insensitive comment, pause and think about whether or not it’s worth getting worked up about. It is probably not. Taking the bait and getting into an argument may be your go-to response, but there is more chance of the actual Easter Bunny joining you for dinner, than ever changing that person who agitates you.
- Change the subject, or walk away.If the same scenario takes place every year with the same toxic person, keep away from them and hang out in another part of the house. Make a point of spending the most time with the relatives you do like instead.
Affirmations are a great way to remind you to stay calm and not let others stress you. Here are some examples:
“ I focus on what is important and not what others expect me to do”.
” I am capable of using my tune-out button when a negative situation arises”.
“ I choose to never compromise my beautiful soul for the sake of pleasing others”.
” I am a whole and complete individual and I am comfortable in my uniqueness”.
” I lovingly express who I am, my presence is a gift to everyone in this family.”
Take a deep breath and stay centered so you can enjoy yourself.