Looking Forward to Thanksgiving Dinner with the Family?

Is the approaching holiday weekend stressing you out?

Guess what? You are not the only one! And no, I’m not talking about the extra pounds gained from the oven-baked turkey your mom prepared, or the stuffing, mash potatoes and let’s not forget, your aunt’s amazing apple pie you’ve been dying for. We all know the pounds are coming, but cant help looking forward to the food! No, I’m not taking about the meal and the drinks! What I have in mind is something else entirely, and that is the anxiety of seeing family members who may not have been your biggest friends or supporters.

You know who I’m talking about, right? I mean those family members who have to, and I mean just have to say the most irritating, often inappropriate “words of wisdom” while lecturing you as to why your life is not measuring up to your cousin Joe. Bingo you say, and that make me crazy!

So what to do? Thanksgiving is this week… Make a game plan!

First things first! Be aware of your feelings. Mindfulness is always helpful and is often needed to decrease your level of nervousness. Remember, anxiety often tends to provide panic type symptoms – you become sure that something horrible will happen, you won’t act appropriate, etc. etc. Sometimes anxiety can be so overwhelming that an individual can become incapacitated to the point that they can’t even process the upcoming “disaster”. You think your parents won’t get along with your in-laws… Guess what? Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re not. But one thing is for certain: if your anxiety is through the roof, your spouse will surely notice it, your parents will notice it too, and everyone’s behavior will change for the worse. Everyone will be on edge, and most likely no one will have fun.

You need to relax

I know it’s a cliche, and you’ve heard it about a million times but it’s true. Take a deep breath, and let go! And then do it again. Actually, try breathing slowly for a while. Inhale and exhale. Several things will begin to happen:  your muscles, all tensed and contracted a minute ago, will slowly ease. Your feelings of panic and that “all hell will break loose” will also subdue. Instead of a flurry of thoughts entering your mind simultaneously,  you will slowly start to develop a strategy… perhaps generate a list of relevant talking points for dinner conversation (just remember to avoid politics at all cost!).

You can even “role play” different situations: in your mind and/or with a friend

Odd you may think. Well, think again. Imagine you’re going to a job interview. You most likely will rehearse several Q&As before you show up in front of that 5 person panel you were told about on the phone interview. It’s basically the same thing. Yes, it’s sad that you have to role play a potentially tense or confrontational conversation with your family, but remember – you are trying to get through this holiday. Stay focused! Embrace the awkwardness of the role play and practice.

By doing this, you can anticipate and prepare for almost anything. Yes, topics such as no current boyfriend/girlfriend? (“What happened with that nice guy/gal you dated a while back?”),  not married yet… no kids!!?? (“Why yes, aunt Lydia, I have postponed marriage/ kids at this time. I’m focusing my attention on my career so I’m not broke when I turn 65”). And let’s not forget the old favorite of how you didn’t follow your parents’ hope for your career (“You work in a gallery?”).  These topics should be first on your list. I repeat: prepare and rehearse, rehearse and prepare.

And who knows? You might actually enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend after all. And if all else fails, remember this: the last suggestion of this article: you can always make the extra trip to the kitchen for that pie! :0

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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