The holidays are a time for celebration, connection and giving back to the people you love the most; but the anticipation of family time can also be seriously anxiety inducing. It may feel impossible to avoid inevitable conversations about politics and the state of the world or the dreaded “what you are doing with your life?” talk.. Maybe there is some unresolved beef with your great aunt that got brushed under the rug five years ago or you find yourself having to bite your tongue when your brother invited his weird toxic ex to the holiday festivities. Regardless of whatever drama may plague your thanksgiving table this year, here are some hopefully helpful tips to stay grateful and maybe even enjoy yourself over the long weekend ahead. 

1. Create your safe space

Be proactive in finding your person to be a listening ear; whether that be a family member, friend, or a mental health care provider. Having that trusted someone to discuss frustrations, fears and emotions with can alleviate stress. 

2. Have a game plan if things go sour.

Consider your escape plan if things take an unfavorable turn. A brief walk for fresh air or finding a quiet space can offer a moment to recalibrate.

3. Embrace calming techniques.

Deep breathing, mindful relaxation of tense muscles or listening to soft music can help manage stress or anger during tense moments.

4. Practice disengagement or diverting conversations away from you.

Conversations are bound to go off track at times, and while we may not be able to control what others would like to talk about, we are in control over how we choose to respond. Try politely asking to continue the conversation another time or diverting discussions to a new topic. 

5. Initiate honest dialogue. 

Expressing concerns or worries ahead of extended gatherings with a family member you are closest to can pave the way for mutual understanding. 

6. Prepare mentally and practice patience

Mentally readying yourself can aid in maintaining composure in the moment, and reminding yourself of the need for patience can help mitigate unanticipated challenges.

7. Exercise empathy.

Remember that although we may not get along as well as we would like with family, meeting others where they are, acknowledging diverse viewpoints and respecting differences all aids in creating space for love and connection. 

Thanksgiving does not need to be overshadowed by tensions or conflicts. By setting boundaries, prioritizing self care and fostering open communication, we can better navigate these times and find moments of joy amidst the potential chaos. Embrace the spirit of gratitude and cherish the connections that make this season what it’s supposed to be all about. 

Author: Gali Aviram, T4P Intern 2023