Are you a survivor of childhood trauma, had a complicated relationship with parents while growing up, or just find family gatherings very stressful yet still feel inclined to attend? That’s okay. I’ve put together a checklist of ideas to help support you through the event.
Preparation and Planning
- Create a safety plan: Outline strategies to ensure you feel safe during family events. Identify a safe space or person you can turn to if needed.
- Set boundaries: Clearly define your boundaries and communicate them to trusted family members. This could include limits on topics of conversation or the duration of your stay.
Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques
- Deep breathing exercises: Practice deep breathing to stay grounded and manage anxiety in the moment.
- Grounding techniques: Use ground techniques, such as focusing on your senses or carrying a comforting item, to stay present and connected.
- Bring a comfort item: Carry a small object or wear something that brings comfort and a sense of security
- Mindful distraction: Engage in activities that provide a distraction without triggering stress. This could be reading, listening to calming music, or doing a mindfulness exercise. I find washing dishes helpful; it’s grounding and I’m still around my family.
- Express your needs: Communicate your needs to family members or a trusted person in advance. Let them know what support looks like for you.
- Use “I” statements: when expressing your feelings or boundaries, use “I” statements to convey your experience without sounding accusatory.
- Identify allies: Identify family members or friends who understand and support your experience. Connect with them during gatherings.
- Therapy: Consider seeking therapy or counseling to process past trauma and develop coping strategies specific to family-related anxiety.
- Self-reflective practices: Engage in self-reflective practices after family events to understand triggers and emotions. This might be helpful to do with a counselor.
- Self-care routine: Establish a self-care routine post-event to help process any residual stress or anxiety.
Emergency Coping Kit
- Create a kit: Prepare a small kit with comforting items, coping cards, or affirmations that you can discreetly access if needed.
- Emergency contact: Have a trusted friend or therapist as an emergency contact who you can reach out to for support.
Remember, it’s crucial to prioritize your well-being and set realistic expectations for yourself. Seeking professional support from a therapist experienced in trauma and anxiety can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific situation.