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  • How to Manage Anger and Anxiety Around Family During Holidays

    For many of us, spending time with family can be a grab bag of emotions. While you may feel love and familiarity, there’s also long-standing dynamics between you and your family that may not be healthy. Your family might treat you like the person from your past they remember, and you might revert to that role when you’re around them without even realizing it. So, let’s explore some ways you can manage your anger and anxiety around family.

    There could be many things that make spending time with family difficult. Old family conflicts, political or religious views, views around sexual, racial, and other social justice issues, climate change, harboured resentments, spoken or unspoken disagreements… can make you dread seeing them again. If you have trouble managing your anger and anxiety when spending time with family, read on for some tips on how to keep your cool.

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    Anger and Anxiety Management Tip #1: Define How You Experience Anger

    Each person experiences anger differently. Some might get more aggressive, some might withdraw, and some internalize the anger. By being aware of how you experience anger, you can better recognize when that emotion is starting to bubble up inside you so you can take control of how you respond.

    Anger and Anxiety Management Tip #2: Rehearse Your Responses

    It’s very common for family to ask intrusive or inappropriate questions. You might have a busybody uncle/aunt who always asks about your relationships, jobs, finances…, or maybe a family member is constantly bugging you about starting a family. Come prepared with rehearsed responses so you won’t be caught off guard. Spend some time ahead of the time with family and jot down some predictable comments. Write down, and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse… your responses.

    Tip #3: Set Boundaries

    It’s important to set boundaries with family. If a family member is aggressive or rude to you, or is always making you the butt of their jokes, your silence acts as approval of their behavior. Because you don’t protest, they think what they’re saying or doing is fine with you. Furthermore, pretending their bad behavior is acceptable only gives them more room to continue the bad behavior, or to get worse over time. Set boundaries with family and let them know when things they’re saying or doing are not okay with you.

    Be kind but firm in your response. At first, this will likely result in some very frustrating responses from their part—they may even feel hurt, and that’s a-ok as long as you were kind in your response—as they may not be used to you setting boundaries. However, over time they will realize this old habit won’t work anymore, and they’ll likely start to change this old habit. If not, then that’s their choice, but you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

    Anger and Anxiety Management Tip #4: Cut the Visit Short

    Sometimes the best option to keep the family peace (and your sanity) is to spend less time with them. We don’t suggest this lightly, as a healthy relationship with family is indeed very helpful to your health. BUT, unhealthy families can also cause you significant health-problems, so determining what is best for you is what matters most.

    If your family tends to have snacks or drinks before dinner, show up just in time to join the family for dinner at the table. You can also opt to skip dessert or coffee and leave a bit early.

    Family relationships are complex and deep-rooted, and family are often the ones who know best how to push your buttons, which can make it quite challenging to manage your anger and anxiety around them.

    While managing your anger can be challenging, learning to maintain control over your emotions is a healthy act of self-love. It will not only keep you sane…, it may even keep your family relationships intact. Though you cannot change your family, you can change your response.

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