Are You Secretly Dreading Thanksgiving?

Are You Secretly Dreading Thanksgiving?

October 11, 2018 2 By Nancy Oehlert

Why are holidays often difficult?

The short answer here is, because holidays involve people. People are imperfect. They are challenging and sometimes maddening. It’s human nature to want a family connection,  to want good relationships with those closest to us.

The difficulty lies in the fact that our expectations of family and the reality of our experience are often two different pictures. The truth is that most people are not living lives of blissful existence, despite what they may post on social media.

Photo: Roy Niswanger

So, how do you navigate the holiday while being thrown together with all of these individuals who all have their own ’stuff’ going on?

We don’t all get along with each other. Personalities and lifestyles are different. Some folks who show up are suffering from lack of sleep, depression or anxiety. Perhaps there are health issues which require medications whose side effects allow emotions to take over. A member of your family may be going through a crisis that you know nothing about. All of these set the scene for possible drama. 

The good news is that it is possible to gather with everyone and not only survive it but actually enjoy it.

First of all, lower your expectations.

Forget those TV specials where the house, the kids, and the meal are perfect and everyone gets along.

Expect a bit of stress as you rub elbows with everyone. Plan to take 5 minutes breaks if you feel your stress level rising. Go out and pet the dog. Water the flowers. Make a quick trip to the grocery store. Sit in the bathroom and read. Just put a bit of distance between you and the stress for a few minutes. Plan an activity such as attending a game or holiday parade. Go shopping. See a movie. Take a long, slow walk in the park.

Where you go and what you do don’t matter. Just get a change of scenery. Have something to do besides sitting around the house.Breathe deeply and decide ahead of time that you will not get sucked into a political debate with Uncle Rob. Watch the parade or football game on TV instead.

Second, make it short and sweet!

If you travel to be at your family’s celebration, make plans to leave early and go on an adventure. Spend the night in a nice hotel with an indoor pool and relax. Or leave a day early and take the time to visit with friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Many people would like to head out a day early, get home a day early and just relax. That’s a really great idea, especially for the busiest among us.

Third, lighten up.

Keep everyone engaged in an activity. If your family is blessed with lots of musical talent, have a talent show or have everyone play something together. Play a game of Pictionary or charades pitting the guys against the gals.

Watch old home movies or better yet, help the kids make a new video. Have a list of questions ready and ‘interview’ the oldest folks there. The result might become a family treasure. Just keep the mood light.

If distance, finances or dysfunction make it impossible for you to be together with family, be with someone else. Be with friends. There are many people whose jobs will not give them time to ‘go home’ for Thanksgiving. Get together and celebrate with a feast. Be a blessing to others and serve lunch at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. 

Have a Mexican potluck and enjoy a football game afterward. Or do a waffle bar and watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV that morning. The possibilities are endless.

So share yourself and the day with a few others, be they family or friends. Picture yourself relaxed, full of good food and making the most of the day. Imagine opening your holiday season with less stress and more enjoyment.

Let someone else argue politics with Uncle Rob this year.



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