By Celeste Parler
Web Content Contributor
If you are anything like me, the news that Thanksgiving is upon us is a shock. It only feels like a month ago was the start of the semester and that Halloween was only last week. Not to mention the homework, exams and projects that I have felt the need to push through to have a “break” each weekend. Needless to say, I was not prepared for the break and to travel back to my hometown.
But, what is just as important as physically preparing to move back into your high school bedroom, to study for finals or to see family members you are not excited to visit is the mental preparation all those activities require. My advice isn’t just for those who struggle with their mental health or have strained relationships with their families or the holidays themselves. My tips for how to mentally prepare for Thanksgiving are for anyone who struggles with the idea that Thanksgiving break is meant for their enjoyment or feels uncomfortable putting themselves first.
First, it is key to be able to acknowledge your feelings or doubts about celebrating Thanksgiving. Burying or bottling those emotions only leads to more inner conflict that will be impossible to resolve. That’s why it is healthy to work through your emotions instead of running from them.
At some point, it will be necessary to communicate what is going on with people you trust. Find someone you will be celebrating Thanksgiving with to look out for you when you are feeling distraught. Or contact a friend or loved one to share your feelings about stress, anxiety or the overwhelming dread of the holiday season. You’ll find that reaching out for help will calm your nerves and make you feel less alone in your problems. When your feelings persist, talk to a mental health professional to meet your health and wellness needs.
One of the best ways to preserve your mental health for the holidays is to directly communicate clear boundaries. Don’t pretend that you are alright with putting up with conversations or activities that put your wellbeing at stake. You have the right to make your voice heard and meet your needs, even if that means saying “no.”
With that being said, it’s also necessary to think before you speak, especially at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Personally, I love the memes that spring up around the holidays about stirring the pot of family drama or being the person to “ruin Thanksgiving.” But truth be told, starting fights or bringing up sensitive information is no way to spend a holiday break. So when you are tempted to snap and break, take a deep breath, be mindful and show respect to even the people who don’t deserve it.
When the burden of celebrating Thanksgiving is too heavy, it’s expected and healthy to take a break from everything going on. Take a break from eating, spending time with your family or just to recenter yourself in a stressful moment. Do what you do to make you feel like yourself again, whether it’s taking a walk, meditating or listening to your favorite song.
What could be making you feel so tense this time of year is the idea that you have to have everything under your control to have a successful Thanksgiving. But in fact, the opposite is true. No one is supposed to handle planning Thanksgiving alone when it comes to cooking, decorating and cleaning. Also, acknowledge that other people’s actions and beliefs are not in your control. So focus on yourself and take a step back from holiday responsibilities when you can.
And lastly, make time on your Thanksgiving break to be grateful for everything around you; the family who cares about you, the delicious meals and the time away from school-related stress. Remember the reason why all of us come together to celebrate in November, to give thanks to something or someone that brings us joy and warm fuzzy feelings. From the KTSW family to yours, we wish you a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.
Featured Image by Celeste Parler