Like the old saying goes, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” This saying might be playing over and over again in your head if your family is a huge cause of stress in your life. There are all sorts of signs to recognize when your family is stressing you out to an unhealthy degree, and knowing and dealing with these stress signs can help you reevaluate your familial situation. In turn, it might be a little easier sitting down to dinner with your family.
Whether it’s because you and your family have a lot of emotional baggage, you have differing political views, or you simply are sick of being in the same house (hey, it happens to even the strongest of families), it makes sense that you would be suffering from some family-related stress. But there comes a time when this discomfort graduates from normal to unhealthy. That’s when you need to think about making some changes.
Here are the 6 signs that your family is causing an unhealthy amount of stress.
1You find yourself starting arguments for no real reason
When you let stress and tension build up when in a family setting, you’re more likely to fly off the handle at any given moment. If you find yourself starting arguments with family members at the drop of a hat, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate what is truly making you so angry.
Once you pinpoint the stressor, you need to talk about it with your family. It could be as simple as expressing your annoyance with the lack of familial communication. Rather than yell and add fuel to the fire, gather those who are pertinent to the conversation and talk about what’s on your mind.
2You feel physically ill when you’re around them
Perhaps your entire extended family convenes for dinner once a week. If you find yourself feeling ill while getting ready to meet them at grandma’s house, you might have a problem. Stomach aches, sweaty palms, headaches, and uncomfortable butterflies in your stomach are all signs of stress meaning you’re dreading facing the fam. And your body is looking for a way to get out of it.
While you’re fighting off stomach cramps when deciding what to wear, try to figure out where the anxiety is stemming from. Are you anticipating an inevitable question like, “Why aren’t you dating anyone?” Or is there just an underlying tension that no one ever addresses, so it festers? Recognizing what makes you anxious can help you build a strategy to deal with the stressor and therefore make you feel less gross about it.
3You’re significantly distancing yourself
You’ve stopped going to family dinners altogether and you’re avoiding talking to family members like the plague. In some scenarios, cutting ties with family members is the only way to heal yourself. But other times, losing touch with family isn’t always the best option and can cause more distress in your life. You need to think about the reasons why you’ve distanced yourself and if the bond between you and your family can be fixed.
Intentionally distancing yourself from family is a very personal and uncomfortable situation to be in, so take a lot of care and time in deciding what to do. If you don’t want to lose touch with family and are simply trying to escape tension, it’s important that you let them know you still love them, but need to take time for yourself.
4You think you’re not good enough when you’re around them
You might feel really down about your current situation if a family member constantly critiques your lifestyle choices. Jealousy might also sink in if your sibling or cousin is “doing better than you” in the eyes of your extended family. Walking away from a family gathering feeling like you’re not good enough is dangerous to your mental health and could cause serious depression.
Remind yourself before entering a family gathering that you’re happy with your place in life. Give yourself a pep talk and make sure you have a good friend on-call that can lift your spirits if the fam brings you down. You can’t compare yourself to others, and if your family is comparing you to cousins or siblings, then that’s their problem. You have to do things at your own pace.
5Your eating/sleeping habits have changed
This sign is especially noticeable if you’re living at home with your parents or extended family. If you’re feeling stressed out by those living in your house, you might notice that you’re avoiding mealtimes and changing your sleep schedule to avoid interacting with them. You could also be eating more to help you cope with the tension in the household.
Take note of these changes and work with yourself and your family to get back on a normal diet and schedule. Ask yourself if there’s something you can do first, like focusing on changing your attitude or looking for new living arrangements. Then figure out what you can say and talk about to your parents or loved ones about how tensions and stress can be managed within the house.
6You are quick to recognize everyone’s faults
When you’re sitting at the dinner table pointing out everyone’s flaws in your head, then you might have a problem on your hands. Demonizing your family is a temporary way to fuel your stress, but it’s not going to do you any favors. Yes, your dad might constantly talk about himself. And yes, your aunt might not share the same political views as you. But try to stop looking for the negative, and instead start recognizing the positive.
Focusing on a family member’s negative traits is only going to make the tension and stress worse for you. As hard as it might be to switch your brain over into positive mode, it’s in your best interest to do so. Even just tuning out of the conversation for a minute might help neutralize the negativity.