We’ve all been there- family reunions that feel less like a reunion and more like a major disjunction. This can feel especially so for the older members of the family who have been through it all every year. However, seniors be assured- there is a way around it.

Keep yourself calm 
It is extremely important for seniors to keep their their heart rate and blood pressure in check, and letting a little family heat boil your blood can very well take a toll on your physical health. To keep yourself calm in tense situations, try focusing on your breathing. Make your inhales slow and deep, and even making a quiet “shh” sound as you exhale can have a soothing effect; this triggers the same muscles you use while laughing and can prevent that fight-or-flight feeling.

Accept the way things are 
The less you resist the facts behind a difficult relationship, the easier dealing with it will be for you. Just like the old saying, “what we resist, persists”, the only way to release tension in the long run is to accept the way things are. A practice that may seem strange at first but does definitely work is looking at someone who may irritate you and saying things to yourself such as, “I accept that you are making me feel anxious and uncomfortable, and I accept that there is nothing I can do to change your ways.”

Be the bigger person 
Probably the most useful advice anyone can give you about avoiding drama of any kind is to simply “be the bigger person”. Try to see where the other person is coming from, and try to let go of the need to be right. You don’t need to necessarily agree with the other person or think they are actually in the right, but you need to acknowledge their stances and even repeat what you understand they are saying back to them. This makes them feel heard and understood and can possibly deescalate arguments, so long as you speak in a nice, understanding tone. In addition, don’t let yourself get wrapped up in the “bait” other people throw out; don’t engage in arguments when you know the other person is just using their words for attention. Instead, try to engage those difficult people in productive ways at family gatherings, for example, ask them to help set the table, and be sure to use “because” to let them understand the rationale as to why it is productive; this often makes room for more compliance.

Look for a mediator 
Family drama can cause big emotional and physical stress. If you cannot handle the issue by yourself it’s not a sign of weakness. If you think your children may fight over a will, medical decisions you’ve chosen for yourself, or if you plainly don’t see eye to eye it’s ok. It’s not a sign of weakness to bring in a professional. A therapist can be a neutral mediator that can help you process those differences of opinion in a safe environment. Similarly, if you’ve chosen how you want to assess your retirement, properties, health, and you don’t want your children to have to make those important decisions you can always look for a wills and estates lawyers that can help mediate those situations.

All seniors know well enough that family drama is just unavoidable. However, these three simple steps can help you make it through uncomfortable situations with ease.

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