4 simple tips for minimizing family stress

October 9, 2015

Although families provide us with our greatest joys, it's only natural that we get on each other's nerves. Significant events – such as the loss of a job or even the Christmas holidays – can trigger stress resulting in family squabbles. Here are some simple tips for minimizing stress to help keep the peace.

4 simple tips for minimizing family stress

[Photo Credit: iStock.com/eclipse_images]

1. Stay connected

Odd as it might sound, sometimes the cause of your stress can also be the cure.

  • Numerous studies have found that surrounding yourself with family and friends buffers the strain of stress better than just about anything else, even if you're recently bickered.

The social support of family members leaves you feeling less isolated, while bolstering your sense of control. This alone can make life seem less daunting.

  • Try reaching out to a family member who you haven't seen in awhile. If they live far away, you could always make a SKYPE or Facetime call with that person.

2. Talk it out

If your family causes more stress than support, you need to address it. You'll have to be honest about the situation to others, but also be clear about what you need.

  • Call a family meeting and have the hard discussion. It might take several meetings.
  • If you find it difficult to face alone, much less initiate, speak with a psychologist or healthcare provider. Often they can facilitate the family meeting, which makes it easier on everyone.

One potential ritual is a weekly family meeting, in which you talk through personal and group issues, schedules and responsibilities.

3. Think about the tone of your voice

Remember that how you say things communicates as much as what you are saying.

  • When addressing loved ones about what's bugging you, especially a spouse, avoid put-downs and negative language.
  • Studies have found that verbal sniping can produce a marked increase in stress hormones, which rarely ever leads to a better situation.
  • A better strategy is to take responsibility for causing some of the household stress. Vow to improve and really try to do so. In this regard, speaking to a psychologist can help you to gain some insight.
  • During the conversation with your family member, be sure you keep your voice low and calm despite the response to your comments.
  • Maintain a smile and remember what Grandma used to say, "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

4. Try guided imagery

Simply put, guided imagery is a powerful technique that makes use of our imagination for focussing thoughts on peaceful mental pictures and triggering the feelings that accompany them. Think it sounds corny? Don't knock it.

  • Scientific research has shown that even subtle thoughts and feelings can have an impact on stress hormones in your blood, which may help to reduce your blood sugar levels.
  • Lab mice bred to have diabetes have higher blood sugar levels when they are conditioned to merely anticipate a minor annoyance, such as the floor moving under their feet. In this regard, people are also susceptible to the effects of stress in a similar way.

To practice simple guided imagery

  • Pick a comfortable chair in a dark, quiet room at home. If you're at work, you can choose a nearby park bench outside or an unoccupied meeting room.
  • For about five minutes, think about nothing but tranquil, flowing water.
  • As you think about the water, picture yourself standing next to a babbling brook and "listen" to the bubbling sounds the water makes as it flows.

In a very real way, tranquil thoughts are like water bubbling from a spring – soothing and relaxing for the senses. In contrast, stressful thoughts are like a destructive flood – stormy, powerful and overwhelming.

  • That's why "controlling" the water of your imaginary spring will help reduce your stress, so that everything remains calm and serene.

When it comes to family, sometimes love isn't always enough. You have to put in the effort to help keep everyone happy, including yourself. Focus on what you cherish about each other and keep the lines of communication open. That way, when a problem arises, you can all work through it together.

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