Now that November is here, we’re headed full steam ahead towards Thanksgiving. For many people, this also means the throes of family drama.
By virtue of family gatherings, conflicts intensify, old wounds are opened, and tensions rise. Some people only interact with certain family members because it is forced upon them by these gatherings. As such, I see an increase in patients coming to me, nervous about these gatherings.
Here’s how to keep your sanity this Thanksgiving.
How To Have A Relaxed Holiday
1. Forget perfectionism.
The moment you believe that you need to pull off the perfect holiday gathering, or—even worse—have the perfect family, is the moment you set yourself up for disaster.
Nothing and no one is perfect. It’s entirely normal for families to have their flaws, colorful characters, and black sheep. Just the same, even the most carefully planned holiday meal can sometimes encounter a hiccup or two…or worse.
Accept and embrace it. By adjusting your expectations, you’re less likely to be disappointed and stressed should something not go according to plan, and you’ll also take the pressure off yourself.
2. Forget about winning the argument.
Although you might feel compelled to drive your point home, ask yourself, “is it really worth it?” Consider the emotional cost of doing so. Instead, simply acknowledge the differences and move on. Remember, sometimes it really isn’t worth it to win the battle but lose the war.
3. Avoid highly sensitive topics.
If in the past certain topics have proven to be anxiety-provoking, stress-inducing, or simply uncomfortable, then dodge them.
Avoid such hot button topics as Obama’s health care program, a divorce in the family, or other emotion-laden topics and stick with safer subjects.
4. Don’t feel intimidated by know-it-all relatives.
Every family has one…or more. Dealing with them is simple: ignore them. Understand what’s going on inside their mind: they crave attention and feed off an audience. The audience reinforces their behavior.
If they don’t get the reinforcement, then they’ll eventually get tired of hearing themselves talk and will stop.
5. Don’t take unsolicited advice from relatives personally.
Sometimes aunts, uncles, and cousins think they know best. There’s a big difference though between wanting what’s best for you and knowing what’s best for you. Make a distinction between the two.
Sure, they want to see you get married, have kids, and have a good career—but they probably don’t know exactly what you deal with on a daily basis, so it’s easy for them to dish out advice or tell you what to do.
To avoid getting upset by this, simply acknowledge their concern, thank them, and move on.
6. Drink and eat in moderation.
Drinking in excess will lower your inhibitions, which could potentially fuel arguments, diminish your happy mood, and make you feel lousy. Similarly, too much food can make you feel bloated, irritable, and tired.Only consume what you know you can handle, not what you think you can handle.
For many people, exercise is the best form of dealing with stress and maintaining good mental health. Make sure you include it during your holiday. That may mean excusing yourself to go for a run or to complete an exercise routine. Do it even if people look at you funny…better that than feeling miserable!
Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of good cheer, happiness, and gratitude. Don’t let stress take that away from you. Take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays.
Jonathan Alpert, author of BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days, holds an advanced degree in psychology and is licensed in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. as a Professional Counselor. His direct and no-nonsense approach has helped countless clients overcome a wide range of issues and go on to achieve success in their careers and relationships. Jonathan has appeared on every major national news show and is a special contributor to the Huffington Post.