How to cope during stressful family gatherings

How to cope during stressful family gatherings

No matter the situation, dealing with others – especially relatives – can be extremely nerve-wracking. And for those of us who are empaths (people who soak up others’ energy), it can be downright traumatic. Today I have some helpful tips on how to cope during stressful family gatherings.

Whether it’s your brother-in-law who tries to rope you into a political debate, your great aunt Dottie’s backhanded compliments, or your cousin’s boyfriend offering you unsolicited advice about your life choices – spending time with family can be extremely stressful. Throw in the anxiety of the impending holidays and you have an empath’s nightmare!

How to cope during stressful family gatherings

Consider declining the invitation

Complete avoidance might be the best answer for your wellbeing. Skipping the party altogether is probably the most effective way to avoid the stress. This might be considered controversial because avoidance doesn’t help with healing. But I would make a strong argument in favor of caring for your own emotional well-being. If spending time with these people causes your anxiety to kick into overdrive, consider spending this time with friends instead.

If you’re worried about backlash from family, you might want to give them the current facts about COVID-19. Even with social distancing, attending an event of any size will increase your chance of being in contact with someone who has the virus. This might seem like a convenient way for you to excuse yourself, but it is certainly a valid and understandable reason.

The COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool
Source: The COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool

Release expectations

If you do decide to attend, be sure to release any expectations before you arrive. Don’t expect others to have a sudden change in their attitude toward you. Instead, just accept them for who they are and resolve to treat them with loving kindness.

Related: How expectations are blocking your happiness and how to fix it

Protect your energy

Have plenty of tools on hand to keep yourself from absorbing others’ energies. This might include a protection crystal, affirmations, calling in your angels, and setting energetic boundaries around yourself. My favorite way to do the latter is to imagine a large bubble that completely surrounds me. It allows only love and light to pass through – anything that doesn’t serve me is kept out.

Related: Spiritual Basics Podcast: Empath Armor

Avoid interactions

Avoid interactions

Keeping a physical distance from anyone who you just know will set you off will help you maintain a calm and drama-free experience. Refrain from engaging in discussions with them – whether it’s one-on-one or in a group. Don’t give any instigators the opportunity to ask leading questions or provoke you.

If it’s a larger gathering, make sure you’re always in a different conversation group or another room. When you sit at the table make sure you have a buffer of at least 3 people between you – the more the better.

Now I’m not saying you should avoid everyone, of course! Keeping your distance from a gossiping aunt will give you the ability to spend more time catching up with your sweet niece.

Change the subject by asking a question

Before you head to the party, have a few neutral subjects at the ready. They might include a popular sport, a book or movie, a favorite travel destination, or a local businesses. You don’t need to know anything about them – just be ready to ask questions. And it is wise to avoid politics or religion.

Then, when someone tries to give you advice or bait you into a controversial topic, change the subject by asking a question like:

Have you heard anything about how they are going to handle the Super Bowl this season?

Gosh, I can’t wait to travel again! I’m really getting the itch to go to Maui. Where do you think you’ll head to when it’s safe to do so?

Have you tried the take-out dinner from Easton’s Restaurant? I had their chicken parmesan the other day and it was amazing! What’s your favorite local place?

People love giving their opinion about anything, so shifting the subject to something neutral will take the pressure off of you.

Just breathe

Just breathe

When you find yourself in an unavoidable stressful situation, take a deep breath and count to 5. Add a related positive affirmation like, “I am loved, loving, and loveable” or “I am protected by Divine love.” Be sure to smile and remind yourself that you are in complete control.

Sneak away for a bit

When things seem to be completely overwhelming for you, see if you can find an unoccupied bedroom to do a stress-reducing meditation for a few minutes. Try this 5-minute calming meditation on YouTube

If that’s not possible, take a quick walk to get some fresh air and clear your energy. Removing yourself from an energy-charged area and changing your scenery will help you to ground and refresh.

Remember that everything is temporary

Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that even if you’re in a stressful situation, it will all be over at some point. That may be a couple of hours, or it could be a couple of days. Either way, looking forward to finding peace in your own safe space will help get you through.

Do you have any tips on how to cope during stressful family gatherings? Share them in the comments!

As a Transformational Life Coach and Certified Hypnosis Practitioner, I help people train their brain to think differently so they can break old, unwanted patterns. Book your free consultation and assessment online.

Jen Merkel Holistic Hypnosis and Wellness

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