Nine Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Start a new tradition by actually having a peaceful Thanksgiving (the way it should be!). Today’s guest blog is from relationship expert Debra Smouse, who recognizes the holiday isn’t always as easy as it should be and offers tips to manage any difficult situations. We’re grateful for the advice, Debra!

thanksgiving anxietyWhen it comes to Thanksgiving, we tend to picture Norman Rockwell images of the family gathered around the table, sharing delicious food, thoughtful conversations, and loving interactions. What most of my clients actually report about previous gatherings is tension, bickering, and passive-aggressive comments.

Dreading the obligatory family gathering? Want to avoid the drama? Here are nine Thanksgiving ideas for you to consider.

Thanksgiving Idea #1: Make Your Mantra “It’s Not About Me.”

Some people escape the reality of their own lives by obsessing over the lives of others. People (especially family) will talk about you. They will comment on your clothes, your weight, and your choice of friends or love interest. They will judge you, because they are too afraid to look within themselves. Remembering that it’s not about you can help you release the worry of what others think about you. You are the only one who lives inside your skin, lives your daily life, and faces yourself in the mirror each day. If you are living true to what is best for you, then that’s all that matters.

Thanksgiving Idea #2: Don’t Take The Bait.

When people are rude or say mean things, it’s tempting to snap back. Remember idea #1: it’s not personal. Step back, apply some compassion and empathy to the situation, and don’t take the bait they dangle in front of you. Sure, a snappy retort might make you feel better in the moment, but in the long run, you’ll regret it. Someone showing their insecurities and fears doesn’t have to send you into reaction mode.

Thanksgiving Idea #3: Give Your Inner Critic the Weekend Off.

Sometimes, the words of our inner critic are worse than anything others might say. This is why an innocent comment from your aunt about your giant piece of pumpkin pie has you mentally jumping to the conclusion that she’s calling you fat. When you give your inner critic the weekend off, you can better enjoy the holiday banter.

Thanksgiving Idea #4: Don’t Play the Comparison Game.

Comparison is really about conforming and competition. While seemingly opposite ideas, the result of comparison is that you want to conform and stand out within a set of norm: cutest kids, best pie, best hair, and happiest life. Diving into the comparison game is going to push you towards trying to be perfect, which is just exhausting. Let go of comparison this weekend, relax, and simply enjoy the tales of what’s happening in your family’s lives.

Thanksgiving Idea #5: Let Your Inner Judge Off The Hook.

Find yourself mentally picking apart another’s words? Discover that you’ve been studying someone else’s behaviors and demeanor? Say, like the tightness of their jeans or their third helping of stuffing. Stop right there! You’ve been caught up in another type of comparison: judging. Let that inner judge off the hook and, instead, figure out what might be worrying you enough that you’d want to distract yourself from your own fabulous life.

Thanksgiving Idea #6: Lay Down Your Worries.

Families trigger all of our stuff, and out comes our inner critic or inner judge. Instead of allowing the triggers to serve as an invitation for your inner critic and judge to run wild in your head, verbalize your worries before the big gathering. Enlist your partner, a sibling, or another trusted family member to help you lay down your burdens for the day. Tell him about the challenge at work that has you stressing or all about how your mom always makes you feel like a naughty child. Your need to distract yourself from your life can be, instead, a bonding experience. Besides, a little vulnerability goes a long way in building and strengthening relationships.

Thanksgiving Idea #7:  Don’t Get Sucked In.

No matter what we do personally, there will be some sort of family drama. You don’t have to get sucked in. Instead? Walk away. Remove yourself from the situation by offering to help with the dishes, excusing yourself to the restroom, or just taking a walk. You have the right to honor yourself and your needs. Alternatively, put your wits to good use. There’s nothing wrong with trying to turn the conversation to another subject or injecting a humorous change. Stepping out of the family politics and drama can lead to others following your example.

Thanksgiving Idea #8: Laugh, Love, and Accept ‘Em.

No matter what the holiday brings, focus on the positive aspects of those around you instead of their negative traits. As crazy as they may make you feel, they are still your family. And deep down, you love them. You only have the power to change yourself and how you react. Accepting the fact that you can’t change anyone will help you just laugh and love them for who they are.

Thanksgiving Idea #9: Consider Skipping It!

And now for some flat-out honesty: if the thought of spending time with your family makes you ill, then stay home. You don’t have to submit to being emotionally or verbally abused. The world is full of unhappy people and sometimes, these people are family members. You have a right to enjoy the holidays. You have the right to be happy. Don’t make a rash decision, of course, but do listen to what your heart tells you.

If you decide that the holiday won’t be the same without visiting the family, just remember these ideas for dealing with the stressful moments. What other Thanksgiving ideas do you have for keeping the peace and reducing the drama?

More at YourTango:

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6 Surefire Ways To Find Love After Divorce

‘In It For The Kids’: Terrible Reasons To Stay In A Bad Marriage


This article was originally published on YourTango.

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