Doesn’t it seem that while we can’t wait for long weekends to get here, once a holiday weekend arrives you can’t wait for it to be over?
Easter weekend (and any holiday, really) 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.
Try coping with family stress over Easter this year with a different approach:
Commit – Either Way
Despite the heavy slathering of guilt associated with attending family events, you do have a choice whether you go or not. If you choose to deal, then deal. You shouldn’t (for many reasons) choose to do something and resent it later. Commit to your decision and pack your best attitude. For many of us, it’s expensive to travel over the holidays, so try to make the most of it.
If you decide it’s simply not worth the stress, send a nice gift or card instead. Even organize a Skype/FaceTime chat with the family so you’re sort of there.
Then spend the weekend with people you actually like hanging out with, or do something that will benefit others, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen.
Make a Game Plan
Ok, you’ve committed and you’re going to the family function. Don’t go in unprepared. Communicate ahead with your partner or family, and decide on a game plan for the day.
What’s the worst that could happen? No really, what is the worst? Go over potential anxiety-inducing situations, and decide with your partner how you might deal with each. What’s your exit strategy when things start to go south? What’s the secret signal for “I’m trapped in this conversation, 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.
Now, for a bit of tough love:
The most important part of this part is remembering that you have agreed to do this, so it is not the time to be irritable, passive aggressive, argumentative or lay on guilt to anyone else. This is when your shiniest, happiest, most pleasant self should be present. Nothing is worse than agreeing to do something, then ruining it for those that actually want to.
Alleviate Unnecessary Stress
What can you nip in the bud early on? 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.
If your in-laws are notorious for overindulging your kids with sugary bribes, speak to them well in advance about what is and isn’t an acceptable gift. Suggest other kinds of (non-edible) presents that you know your kids would appreciate. If your children are old enough, talk to them about the amount of treats they can have. Do it before you leave the house. It’s easier than having to take it away from them and explaining why later.
Pick Your Battles
There’s 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.
Instead of reacting to a hurtful or insensitive comment, pause and think about whether or not it’s worth getting
worked up about. It’s probably not. Taking the bait and getting into an argument may be your go-to response, but there’s more chance of the actual Easter Bunny joining you for dinner, than ever changing your agitator’s mind.
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.
Have a Wingman or Wingwoman
Coping with family stress over Easter is so much easier with a friend. A supportive person on your team is helpful when the smoke starts to stream out of your nostrils. If you’re simmering, signal your partner and get outside for a quick walk to reset. If you don’t have a partner, get someone on standby for SMS vent-therapy if needed.
This is my favorite way of coping through difficult family gatherings, and seeing how silly things actually look from the outside.
If family get-togethers are predictably painful, see the humour in them with a game of bingo. Make a list of all the ridiculous things typical to your family gatherings (e.g. uncle gets drunk and passes out on the table, cousin starts on political rant, aunt asks you why you’re still single, the smoke detectors go off and dinner starts two hours late). Organize these items into your very own bingo card.
Check each event off your card when you get home, and if you get a line, YOU WIN! Treat yourself to a bottle of wine or a pedicure.
Nadia La Russa is a wife, wellness coach, mom, step-mom, and former stress case. To book a coaching session, or find out more, contact her here.