Thanksgiving Anxiety: Tips For Turning Worry Into A Happy Turkey Day

Ever felt Thanksgiving anxiety? Holidays inherently bring on trigger sitautions that aren't day-to-day. Learn to get through your Turkey Day with Youper.
Medically Reviewed by
Dr Hamilton

For many, Thanksgiving is a day filled with good times. Although, having anxiety casts a big shadow over how a person is going to feel about the holiday.

Being thankful isn’t so easy when the anxiety puts weight on our chests and negative thoughts in our heads. Then guilt comes on. We start to feel sorry for being anxious around our family. Sure, they are family, but not everyone is a part of our day-to-day lives. This can create a barrier of unfamiliarity that stands in the way of our comfort.

Whether at the table with family or answering a long list of questions from an aunt you haven’t seen in awhile, you never know when the next trigger will spark Thanksgiving anxiety. Let’s explore how expressing gratitude, lowering your expectations, and having space to recharge your batteries will help you cope with Thanksgiving anxiety.

Leverage The Thanksgiving Spirit

Thanksgiving’s spirit is embedded in its name: thanks. Society has taught us that Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all things we are thankful for from the past year. Some families have the custom of going around the table to give everyone the chance to give thanks for one thing. This tradition is great, but what about things you can do out of the spotlight?

Project Hope & Beyond founder and author, Therese J. Borchard, writes that we can cultivate the ability to focus on positive things, though it can be hard initially. Some of her ways to be thankful are writing a thank you letter, keeping a gratitude journal, reflecting on those that have helped and supported you, and getting a gratitude partner. These actions will all make you feel good by directing your focus to positive experiences and emotions.

Giving thanks isn’t just for the sake of feeling better. Therapist and author Amy Morin writes about scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, explaining the practice improves self-esteem, mental strength, psychological health, and can even make you sleep better.

Don’t Expect A Norman Rockwell Holiday

You remember the paintings of nostalgic depictions of early twentieth-century life during the holidays, right? They are synonymous with images of holiday perfection. Aside from a little humorous family dysfunction, modern media doesn’t do much better at depicting families during the holidays.

In real life, we know that’s not how things go, so it’s important not to let those unrealistic examples paint our expectations for reality. Lowering our expectations can help us avoid the anxiety that comes from trying to ensure every detail is perfect. If you hold yourself to that standard because you want to deliver an excellent holiday for your family, remember that they love you and will enjoy the experience no matter what.

If you eliminate expectations, everything has the potential to be a positive experience rather than running the risk of not meeting expectations.

Feel Free To Get Away

When expressing gratitude and dropping your expectations aren’t enough, let yourself step down from the stage. Holidays tend to make us feel like we need to spend every moment invested in our families. We may think of ourselves as lousy relatives if we aren't. Rather than pressure yourself to stick out the interactions, acknowledge your limits.

Three great ways to do this are finding a place where you can be alone, plan with someone close to you to get away from the crowd, and having a last-resort escape plan.

If you know the place you’ll be, define your safe space before you get there. In an unfamiliar location, look around when you arrive and pick a place you can duck away if needed. Areas outside the house are excellent, but a spare bedroom or bathroom work, too.

Having someone who knows what you’re going through adds a needed level of support. Talk to a close relative or friend about stepping away from the group together if you feel you need a break. Make sure they understand that if you call on them it means you need their undivided attention immediately. Get away to a place where the two of you can talk and relax without interruptions.

When Thanksgiving anxiety symptoms get extreme, have an escape plan. Don’t let the notion of maintaining pure holiday cheer force you to ignore how you feel. Respect yourself, your feelings, and your mental health. Think of a reason why you would need to leave early and, if you need to, use it.

Get Through Your Thanksgiving Anxiety

Thanksgiving should be a time to get together with those you love and care for to offer thanks. However, anxiety doesn’t make it so easy.

Pushing yourself to start a gratitude habit can shift your perspective to positive aspects of life and benefit your self-esteem, mental strength, psychological health, and more. Not holding yourself or your Thanksgiving experience up to unreachable standards will ensure you see things with a fresh perspective and appreciate them more. When the going gets tough, a plan to get away to recharge your batteries or leave the gathering is a crucial safety net.

Taking care of your mental health is essential year round. However, when the holidays roll in, they inherently come with a list of trigger-inducing situations. The above tips can help you reduce and overcome Thanksgiving anxiety to make the best of your Turkey Day.

Do you have a tip for controlling anxiety during the holidays or an experience you've gone through? Share in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Youper!

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