Family Picnics and Anxiety Attacks

Eileen Bailey Health Guide

    This summer season, there will be plenty of family picnics. Those with panic disorder may have a hard time coping with gatherings of any kind. Sometimes, family picnics can offer a safe place to be. Sometimes your family offers support and understanding and allows you to enjoy yourself, without becoming overwhelmed. Other times, however, family gathering may provide a huge source of stress. Families are not always understanding. They may judge you or make you feel as if you need to be perfect. This stress can bring on a panic attack or heighten your anxiety.


    There are a number of steps you can take to help allieviate your anxiety and make you feel more uncomfortable:

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    • If you travel a distance to be with your family, consider staying in a hotel rather than at your family's home. This will provide you the option of spending a few hours with your family and then going back to your hotel, rather than spending several days at a relative's home.
    • While you arrive at your relative's home, look around for a place you can escape if you need to take a few minutes to yourself. If it is an outside picnic, find an area inside or a quiet area outside. Taking a few minutes before the crowd arrives to locate a peaceful area can save you later. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, you can immediately excuse yourself and retreat for a few minutes.
    • If you are being criticized by relatives, walk away and find someone else to talk with. Leaving is not a sign of weakness, it takes inner strength to be able to walk away.
    • Bring someone with you. Make sure you have someone that understands your anxiety disorder close at hand. Bring your spouse or a friend to the gathering. This will alleviate some of the stress by giving you someone you can talk to about your fears.
    • Volunteer to do something to keep yourself busy. Offer to refill plates of food or to help serve the food. Giving yourself an activity may help relax you and keep your mind occupied and off of your fears and anxieties.
    • Set boundaries with your family. Let them know what is acceptable and what is not. If they "lovingly" tease you about your anxiety and this makes you feel uncomfortable, let them know and request the teasing stop. If it still does not stop, walk away.
    • If you become irritable and anxious just thinking about spending time with your family, consider whether you really need to go to this event. Can you see your family at smaller gatherings, rather than a large family picnic?


    Using some of these tips might help to decrease the anxiety you feel and help you to enjoy your family and the time you spend with them.

Published On: July 03, 2008