How To Handle It When Your Family Stresses You Out

How To Handle It When Your Family Stresses You Out
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Sometimes our families stress us out. There are moments when the roots of our family tree trap us and won’t let us go, tangling us up in their toxic behaviors, their demands, their phobias, and their affective bonds governed by clear narcissism. You have to handle these dynamics to protect your dignity and improve your relationships.

Some say that being born is like falling out of a chimney. We never know what home we’re going to land in, we don’t know what the first socio-affective scenario will be like – that which will determine a large percentage of our psychological structure -nor we don’t know what kind of attachment we will learn from our parents. We know if that family will bestow us happiness, whether we’ll be brought up with neglect, or whether we’ll witness an environment where reproaches, attacks, and contempt are common.

“We come from ourselves, we go towards ourselves. Even if our family and society try to stop us, let’s be ourselves!”

-Alejandro Jodorowsky-

If landing in a good family is almost a lottery, so is surviving the family and coming out unharmed by certain frustrations and tensions that we can’t always resolve. It’s common for some issues to remain, and for us as mature adults to continue to clash with our parents’ values, rubbing up against our aunts and uncles, and even competing with our siblings from time to time.

Living with others isn’t easy. However, these antagonistic processes can flow naturally as long as there’s respect. This will allow us to depend on our families, which should be there for us no matter what. What if this isn’t the case? What should we do when there’s no respect and our state of mind is continually undermined and damaged? How should we act when we feel stressed and suffocated by our families?

woman with a bunch of squirrels around her

When our family stresses and suffocates us

We always tell ourselves we won’t make the same mistakes again. We convince ourselves not to go to those family gatherings or celebrations that always end badly. We try to be firm to not give in to emotional blackmail, to those demands that tend to leave our self-esteem at an all-time low. However, we fall into the same traps over and over again.

So, how can we stop this? They’re our family and, like all patrimony built on blood and genetics, we try to honor them and respect them, even if the price of our stoic devotion is ever higher. We deal with situations that we can’t handle and we let ourselves be blackmailed. We lower our heads and bite our tongues to avoid ruining life-long relationships in a second.

When your family stresses you out, many things come to mind. Perhaps it’s time to formalize a definite departure? Or are we going to keep suffocating ourselves in this blood bond for life? There’s no need to fall into these extremes; it’s not healthy nor bearable. Let’s see what guidelines you can apply.

When your family stresses you out, you shouldn’t make extreme decisions and observe everything from a place of calm.

How to handle a stressful situation in family contexts

Family conflict wears you down due to the feelings and conflicted positions. This emotional erosion can go so deep that you end up processing and even exaggerating any word or gesture in that suffocating family context.

You should first work on relaxing and finding inner peace. When you’ve swallowed so many things over a lifetime, you end up accumulating immense frustration and rage. You need to channel all these things. Once you’ve ventilated those emotional tension-filled rooms, it’s time to take the next step.

Define yourself and your identity

When people don’t develop a strong sense of identity, an identity that’s well-defined separate from the family context, their emotional well-being is in constant danger. You must  cut that umbilical cord and treat yourself as an independent entity rooted in your own ideologies, values, and needs.

When your identity and self-concept are firm, there’s no room for doubt and you know what’s right, what’s acceptable, and what’s not. Furthermore, you see those toxic behaviors and narcissistic acts with greater clarity and also have fewer qualms when it comes to establishing boundaries. You know they’re necessary to improve cohabitation.

a paper family

You don’t always have to agree with your family and that’s not a bad thing

Family stress has its roots in lack of harmony and arises because there’s a force field where some people act as opponents and not as facilitators. One very common fact in these scenarios is the constant need for approval. We avoid stepping out of the lines to avoid disappointing others.

An authentic family is a unique microcosm where very diverse elements live together in perfect harmony. It’s a precious stone, where the most varied minerals are encrusted, each with their own colors, fabulous properties, and unique characteristics. The beauty of that jewel is its diversity. Everyone is different and exceptional in their own way. We must understand that a good family respects and helps each other, instead of suffocating and creating obstacles.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.