Surviving Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving. A joyous time for some, but for others, it can be filled with dread. This time of year can bring about feelings of nostalgia, warmth, and happiness. People tend to gather more with friends and family, maybe even attend or host a “Friendsgiving” event. However, for some, this time of year brings about anxiety, sadness, shame, and depression.

If you’ve experienced a loss, the holidays can remind you who is no longer with you. If you’ve gone through a traumatic event, this time of year can bring about feelings of anxiety and depression. If you don’t have many friends or family members or are estranged from them, you might be feeling lonely. If you have a toxic family situation, going to events with them can be painful. If you’re in recovery, being around people who are drinking can be triggering. If your aunt with conflicting political opinions keeps badgering you, it can bring about anger. No matter what the situation, we all could use a little more love and support this time of year. Here are five ways to take good care of yourself this Thanksgiving.

1. Get Support.

You are not alone; there are other people feeling similar to you. Getting a little extra support can make a huge difference. Maybe this includes a quick text or phone call to a trusted friend before you go to your parents’ house. Maybe processing the dreadful event with your therapist before you attend will help you to process your feelings. Maybe this means you reach out to others who you know are struggling right now. There is nothing like helping others to make us feel a little more fulfilled.

2. Take Breaks.

Go for a walk outside. Escape to the basement with your little cousins and play video games for a bit. Hide in the bathroom and take a few deep breaths. No feeling is final and taking a quick break can remind you that this situation will end eventually. Taking a time-out is perfectly healthy.

3. Plan Something Enjoyable.

If you’re dreading your Thanksgiving celebration, think about adding something fun before or after the event. This doesn’t need to be an expensive or involved plan. Maybe you listen to your favorite music on the way to and from the event. Or maybe you grab a cup of coffee with a good friend before seeing your relatives. Give yourself something fun to look forward to.

4. Enforce Your Boundaries.

You don’t owe your entire family an explanation for why it didn’t work out with your ex or why you didn’t get promoted this year. People are free to ask you personal questions, but you don’t have to answer them. If you are concerned about nosy relatives making you uncomfortable, think about the boundaries you want to enforce. There is nothing wrong with smiling and saying “I’d rather not talk about this right now. Tell me, what’s new in your life?” If you feel uncomfortable setting or enforcing a boundary, think about what your escape plan might be. “Excuse me, I see my mom needs me…” is a perfectly reasonable reason to pop out of an uncomfortable situation.

5. Create a Tradition.

Not everyone buys into the traditional American Thanksgiving. You’re an adult; you can create whatever tradition you want! Does the fourth Thursday in November make you want to sit inside and watch old movies all day? Awesome new tradition you created! Feeling helpless in the world these days? Maybe set a new tradition to volunteer at a domestic violence shelter to pass out a Thanksgiving meal. You don’t have to follow traditional norms this Thanksgiving; you can do what feels right for you.

However you choose to spend this Thanksgiving, take good care of yourself. Acknowledge your feelings; they are valid.

Be well.

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