Fall is among us. The days are getting shorter, the weather is cooling down, pumpkin spice is everywhere, and in the US the holiday season has arrived. Sure this year will look a little different, but the emotions surrounding the holidays will still happen. The happiness, the joy, the anxiety, the stress, the mixed-feelings of accepting an invitation while rejecting another will still be around to some degree. We will worry about the pumpkin pie or stress about holiday traffic at some point during the month. After all, we are human and part of being human includes having emotions (for better or for worse), but fear not because there are ways to make this time of year a little bit easier to navigate.
Here are five ways to realistically handle Thanksgiving (and any other holiday):
Build Your Tribe
Find your people – those you connect with. This may be a different group than the people you are related to and that is okay. Having a group to talk to, or be supported by can be very important. Research has shown that having quality social circles (key word: quality) is associated with a reduced likelihood of depression. Finding a positive support system can boost your mental health. Support doesn’t necessarily mean agree with either. You can have different religious backgrounds, social standing, political leanings and still be there for each other. Connecting with those that matter to you can provide a lot of positive health outcomes. Remember, it is fine to eliminate toxic or negative relationships — regardless of the nature of the relationship for your own health. Opt to spend time, whether in person or virtual with those who support you. You should not be guilt tripped into spending time with those who hinder you and your health.
Destress a Situation
Did you know an estimated 70-80% of diseases are associated with stress? That’s why it is very important to watch our stress levels. Entirely avoiding stress may not be possible, but limiting it can. This time of year tends to bring about a lot more stressful situations. The to-do list gets longer, the get togethers start happening, there’s food prepping involved and people to break bread with. All this can cause any level-headed individual to stress, right? The good(ish) news is that stress is all about perception. We get to decide what makes an event stressful. Mind over matter on this one. We get to decide if cooking a turkey and three sides is fun and entertaining, or nerve-wrecking and anxiety inducing. We get to decide if we are going to worry about gaining 5 lbs. this month or take it in stride. Letting things roll off our backs can be a challenge to do but if it can be done, chances are less stressful situations will occur.
Welcome Your Emotions
You have every right to be sad, angry, or nervous during Thanksgiving. You have a right to grieve, to cry, or even to feel relieved about a situation (yes you can feel relieved to not see certain relatives). You have a right to feel however you need to. There is no right or wrong way. All emotions are accepted from tears of joy to hour-long, gut-wrenching sobs. This time of year can be celebratory for some and sorrowful for others – or even a mixture of both. No matter what the feeling is, it is fine to name it, own it, and embrace it.
Things may look a little different this year. Seats may be empty at the dinner table. Some yearly traditions may have to be scrapped. The easier it is to be flexible and accept change, the easier it will be to not stress about it. Go with the flow and accept it, perhaps even try to find a bright spot in the newness. Adopt the changes and see what happens. Who knows, you may end up creating a new tradition.
Be Present. Be Mindful
Being mindful has lots of benefits from decreasing depression to helping manage illnesses. By definition, being present means you focus on the here and now and not on what can happen tomorrow, or what has happened five years ago. By focusing on the action taking place this minute, we tend to worry less about issues that we can’t address right now. There is nothing you can do presently to diffuse a family argument that may or may not happen three weeks from now, so be present and enjoy the cup of tea you are drinking or the meal you are preparing. There is no sense worrying about things outside your control.