thanksgiving table

Pre-Thanksgiving Therapy Pep Talk: 6 Reminders for a Stress-Free Holiday

November 20, 2023

6 Reminders from a family therapist for a stress-free Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a time when expectations run high. We are bombarded with images of picture-perfect families and homes, leading us to believe that our own celebrations should mirror these ideals. However, when reality falls short of these expectations, it can lead to disappointment and hurt.

I want to offer you six reminders to help you navigate Thanksgiving with grace and ease. Think of this as your own personal pre-Thanksgiving therapy pep talk.

Reminder #1: Expect your family to be the same today

Expect them to be the same people they are every other day of the year. Prepare for them to come with their flaws, idiosyncrasies, and positive traits. Prepare for the full breadth of who they are as human beings.

Often, we place unrealistic expectations on our family members during the holiday season, hoping for a harmonious and flawless gathering. However, it's important to remember that our loved ones are imperfect, just like us. By accepting them for who they are, flaws and all, we can approach Thanksgiving with a more realistic mindset.

Reminder #2: Remember that you are an adult, not a child

Returning to our parents' home or spending time with family can make slipping back into those old childlike roles easy, but you are going to try very hard to resist that today. You are an adult.

As adults, it's easy to fall back into familiar patterns and dynamics when we reunite with our families. However, it's crucial to assert our independence and remember that we have agency over our own lives. We can choose how we spend our day and have the power to leave if things become overwhelming.

Reminder #3: Get clear on your limits

Take a moment to get clear on your limits today. Is there a specific behavior that you won't tolerate? Is there a sign that you need to leave the event? Get clear on your limits and have a plan for when those limits have been reached.

Setting boundaries is essential for maintaining our emotional well-being during family gatherings. By identifying our limits and knowing when it's time to step away, we can protect ourselves from unnecessary stress and discomfort.

Reminder #4: Determine what is important to you

Ask yourself what is important today? What is the significance of this day for you? Is there a person you want to prioritize like a child, an elderly family member, or even yourself? Is there a goal you have for the day? Get clear on your values and what is important to you this holiday season and try to align your actions with those values.

Thanksgiving holds different meanings for each of us. It's essential to reflect on what truly matters to us and align our actions accordingly. Whether it's spending quality time with loved ones, taking care of ourselves, or pursuing personal goals, this reminder encourages us to be intentional in our choices and prioritize what brings us joy and fulfillment.

Reminder #5: Today is not the day to pick battles or start a healing journey

I know holidays can make us emotional and may inspire you to bring up that big issue with your dad, but I promise this is not the right time. It will not go well.

While family gatherings can stir up unresolved issues and emotions, Thanksgiving is not the ideal occasion to address them. Attempting to tackle deep-rooted conflicts during a holiday celebration can often lead to further tension and distress.

Reminder #6: A holiday is just a day

If anything goes wrong today, remember this, a holiday is a day. I get through 24 hours all the time. I can get through this. This day will end.

When things don't go as planned or tensions arise, it's crucial to keep things in perspective. Thanksgiving is just one day out of the year, and it will eventually come to an end. Reminding ourselves of this can help alleviate stress and allow us to approach the day with a sense of resilience and perspective.

How These Reminders Will Help

By embracing these reminders, we can transform our Thanksgiving experience into a more positive and fulfilling one. By managing our expectations, asserting our independence, setting boundaries, and prioritizing what truly matters to us, we can navigate family gatherings with grace and ease. This shift in mindset can have a profound impact on our overall well-being and the quality of our relationships.

Wishing you a happy and stress-free Thanksgiving!

If You Need More Help

Calling Home is a community of cyclebreakers just like you. We understand that family is messy and unpredictable, and we will never respond with, "but it's your family."

We know it can be challenging to break cycles and you don't have to do it alone.