anxiety at family gatherings

Stressed about the holidays?  When anxiety is swirling you into chaos, these 7 steps can help you soothe anxiety at family gatherings.

Anxiety is like a wild animal

Anxiety can come like a wild animal taking you into a panic world so fast, where you need to survive and run to escape the danger.  It may feel like:

  • thoughts racing in chaos
  • heart beating fast
  • chest getting tight and not loosening up
  • similar to a physical illness
  • eyes darting around looking for a way out

You don’t feel safe— that’s the summary of it!

When we feel things are out of control, our anxiety increases.  We cannot control other people’s behaviors, what we can control is our own behavior.

Signs of Anxiety

When anxiety starts, it seems to come so quickly and out of nowhere.   Especially, when you feel out of control, it may be one of the biggest triggers.  There are ways to notice signs before anxiety strikes.

Anxiety Signs include:

  • lots of worrying (disrupting daily life)
  • rapid heart beat, sweating, shaking, dry mouth
  • restlessness, on edge
  • fatigue (tired)
  • difficulty concentrating
  • very irritable
  • tense muscles
  • trouble sleeping or staying asleep
  • panic attack 
  • avoid social situations
  • irrational fear

Anxiety panic attacks and heart attacks can feel similar.  If you think you’re having a heart attack or aren’t sure, seek medical attention immediately.  

Anxiety does not feel safe, you want to escape.

Perceived Danger

Whether the danger is real or perceived, it still feels like real danger.  The body reacts with a fight/flight/freeze response.  You feel scared and you want to just crawl up into a ball and cry.  

During anxiety, many people feel embarrassed, completely overwhelmed, and detached from people.

So, how can you feel safe & soothe anxiety at family gatherings and group events?

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can happen during any group gatherings, friends, family, and work gatherings.  I’ve even had anxiety at church gatherings.  

Sometimes a physical illness can bring on anxiety, which have been some of my worst anxiety episodes.  

Stress & Anxiety @ Family Gatherings

At family gatherings, a person can feel overwhelmed even with the most caring families.  Whatever stress baggage you’ve been carrying has now been carried into your family gathering.

This happens with me, especially when I’m carrying stress from the previous week or experience.  All that stress is carried into my family gathering.  

This stress creates more anxiety!   The stress then snowballs and effects how I handle any gatherings with friends, family, and colleagues.  I feel more stressed, more tense, and more overwhelmed all from the stress.  

This all happens before I even get together with family and friends, or at work.

It can be very helpful to know how to manage and overcome the anxiety. Gatherings can include family reunions, holiday gatherings, parties, or just a gathering of friends. 

Anxiety increases when things feel out of control.

7 Steps to Soothe Anxiety @ Family Gatherings

Here are 7 steps to soothe anxiety that have been very helpful to me when I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious.

safe people and places soothe anxiety

1. Safe Place

Whether in your mind or in person, think of a safe place to go to when you need to escape the crowd.

Find a physical safe place in your environment.  Where is a safe place you can retreat to and feel safe?  

  • Outside under a tree?  
  • In a bathroom?  
  • In your car?
  • With a friend?

2. Mental Safe Place

Imagine a safe place where you feel more at peace, more calm, more joyful.

Think of a safe place that has happy memories, think of a safe place that you would like to visit one day. 

Imagine yourself in this safe place:

  • smell the fresh air
  • see 5 things around you
  • hear 2 things around you
  • touch smooth surfaces
  • imagine safe people with you

3. Safe People

A safe person is someone you can trust, someone you feel safe around, someone who will help protect you.

Who are your safe people? 

  • a good friend
  • mom or dad
  • spouse/partner
  • teacher/pastor
  • counselor

If they are not available around you in person, imagine one of these safe people near you. 

Think of the comforting and supporting phrases they could tell you that would help you feel safe and comforted. 

Imagine a Safe Person

If you can not think of a safe person that you know, imagine what you would like a safe person to be like.  Maybe your safe person to have traits such as:

  • supportive
  • calming
  • kind
  • gentle
  • accepting
  • loving

4. Move to Feel Calmer

Moving your body can help calm down your nervous system, and reboot you nerves to remind them that they are safe. 

Walk around intentionally grounding your feet, think to yourself as you make each step:

“I am here in this moment walking on this ground.”  

calm nervous system

5. Breathe Deeply

Breaking deeply helps calm the thoughts and emotions, even if it takes awhile to work.  

Start with matching your breathing and intentionally slow it down every few breaths. 

Breathe in through your nose, and slow the out breath more and more as you breathe out through your mouth.

6. Soothing Surroundings

Surround yourself with peace.  Whatever brings you peace right now, intentionally choose peaceful and comforting things around you to help you feel safe.

  • a special prayer bead
  • a card from a friend
  • a soft warm blanket
  • a comforting pet

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7. Soothing Drink or Food

Drink water or tea, something to sooth your body and calm down your nerves.  

Drink something calming, like Herbal teas:

  • passion tea
  • chamomile tea
  • mint tea
  • green tea
  • white berry tea

Eat something soothing that decreases anxiety:

  • eat a cracker, saltine crackers, graham crackers
  • mixed nuts, peanut butter, protein
  • blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes
  • smoothie with fruit

Muffins made with various flours and fruit are some of my favorite.

soothe anxiety in swirling chaos

Life Application:

  • What can help you gain a sense of control?
  • What will help you feel calmer and safer?
  • In the middle of anxiety swirling you into chaos, how do you soothe anxiety?

Soothing Anxiety

When anxiety is swirling you into chaos, these 7 steps can help soothe the anxiety animal.  Even if the anxiety response seems to just show up out of nowhere, these steps can help ground you in the present moment and gain a sense of control.

Calming the body, mind, and spirit can also help calm anxiety and increase control and wellness.

I hope this journey of soothing anxiety helps you improves your wellness as it has helped me improve my wellness. I’d love to hear about your journey towards wellness and what helps you soothe your anxiety.

I’d love to hear from you, please leave me a comment, or join me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.


Disclaimer: This article has resources about restoring wellness, and is based on my research and my experiences.  This information is not meant to take the place of counseling or therapy.  If at any time you feel uncomfortable or need to talk to someone, wellness resources can help you find a counselor and other resources that may be helpful.