Tips for a Peaceful Thanksgiving with Family

By: Pine Rest Staff

Happy family sitting at the Thanksgiving table

Is it possible to enjoy a peaceful Thanksgiving with family?

As we enter the holiday season, some of us may begin to feel increased levels of stress and anxiety as we wonder what these get togethers are going to entail. Will there be arguments at the dinner table? Will our children behave themselves? Will the adults??

In dealing with our emotions it is important to find healthy ways to reconnect with our support systems, develop a sense of peace within ourselves, and move forward. So as we prepare to give thanks and jump fully into the holidays here are some tips to get you through in peace … and in one piece!

Tips for a Peaceful Thanksgiving with Family

Let Go of Situations Not in Your Control

This is a great coping skill to learn for any of life’s difficult situations. Take inventory of what you do and do not have control over. If something is within your control, you have the ability to impact it. However, if other things are outside of your realm of control, you have permission to allow those things to unfold as they may. Worrying about that which you do not have control over will not change the situation.

Surround Yourself with Positivity

Positivity is infectious. When we are surrounded by people, places or things that make us feel safe, taken care of, or just plain happy, we are in a better position to feel happy and light-hearted. While reconnecting with family, friends and yourself this year, be sure to take time to engage in interactions that are positive. This could be as simple as a phone call or text conversation with someone positive in your life, or as involved as volunteering in your community in order to bring positivity to others.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries is often more difficult than it sounds. When we set boundaries, we are clearly stating that our feelings and emotions matter. We are willing to protect ourselves, even if that makes other people uncomfortable.

Focus on the Positive

One way to achieve this is communicating to others what the focus of the holidays really is: loving one another. Gatherings do not have to focus on the negatives that divide us, but instead can be used as a time to celebrate the positives that connect us to each other. So instead of sitting by quietly when the first verbal bomb is dropped at the dinner table, be the one to remind your family that the reason that you have gathered together is to spend the day being thankful for one another.

Get Comfortable Saying “No.”

Another way to set healthy boundaries is being OK with saying, “No” – a short but powerful word. You have the right to not be forced to engage in activities or conversations that unnecessarily increase your level of stress. Saying no does not have to be mean or confrontational. A simple matter of fact response of “No, thank you” is often times met with understanding and opens the door to move on to the next topic or activity.

Focus on Family Traditions

Three generations of women making apple pieHolidays are full of great traditions that tend to bring a smile to our face as we gather together. Some of the best stories happen when families engage in time honored traditions and begin to pass those traditions down to younger generations. Whatever your special tradition is, or even just a special moment is, enjoy it to the fullest. Instead of getting caught up in negativity and or disagreements, focus on things that have historically brought joy to you and your family.

Limit Unnecessary Stressors

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but some stress can be limited or eliminated altogether. Look for places in your life that are adding unnecessary stress and begin to remove them as needed. This may be as simple as limiting your contact with high stress topics, not watching the news every day, or limiting how often you log on to social media. It’s OK to step back take care of your own needs–during the holidays or anytime!

Engage in Self Care

We simply have to take care of ourselves if we want to continue taking care of others. We are not able to pour into others if we feel empty ourselves.

Self-care can be as simple or elaborate as we make it. Some great self-care activities might include:

  • Making quiet time to pray or mediate
  • Soaking in the tub
  • Taking a walk
  • Reading a book
  • Dancing as if no one is watching

… or just giving yourself permission to do nothing at all! Whatever way you take care of yourself, make it a non-negotiable part of your life.

Love People Where They Are

Relatives hug at the front entrance of homeLove is a very powerful emotion, but it is an equally powerful tool. I have come to find that love is just as much a verb as it is a noun. We have to choose to love sometimes, even when people are not very loveable.

If you find that your family or social circles have rather different views than your own, you have to make a choice on whether or not you can love them despite your differences or if your differences are too big of a hurdle for you to get over.

No family agrees on everything – be it politics, religion, or whether there should be giblets in the gravy. We have to learn to learn to love people. Love has the ability to heal so many wounds and open doors of communication.

Be Willing to Remove Yourself

If worse comes to worse, you have the power and the right to remove yourself from toxic environments. This could be as simple as going into another room, stepping outside or even calling it an early night.

You have to be willing to voice your concerns if the atmosphere is feeling charged. Agree to disagree with people and let them know that you are willing to talk about other topics. However, if they feel a need to continue a particularly high stress discussion, let them know that you are just going to remove yourself. This is not a threat nor is it an ultimatum. It is simply you choosing to not lose focus on why you are gathering with family in the first place. It is also choosing to take care of yourself.

In closing, this holiday season should be a time of rejuvenation and re-connecting with family and friends. We have to be careful to protect ourselves and our homes from the storms that can so easily come in and disrupt the flow of lives. So this year, instead of avoiding, hiding and hoping that the storms pass, be proactive in reconnecting with the people you love … and especially reconnecting with yourself.

Related Articles

The busyness of all this wonderful time can also be draining. The good news is that we know it will be busy, so we can plan ahead to give ourselves the regular and extra self-care we may need in order to enjoy all the fun and festivities. Dr. Ron DeVries offers seven tips to embrace this season so you can stress less and enjoy the holidays more.
Unrealistic expectations for the holidays often end in disappointment and lead to problems. Therapist Jean Holthaus provides a recipe for realistic holiday expectations so you can have a healthier, happier holiday season.
Small girl comforting father when pulling out the burnt turkey and potatoes from the oven

The Latest Newsroom content delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to Mental Health Matters

Subscribe Today

Mental Health Matters!

Stay informed through news, stories, interviews, resources and more.