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Yes, There is Such a Thing as Thanksgiving Stress – Here’s How to Deal with It

Thanksgiving stress. It’s real. Images on TV and social media are all about fun, relaxation, and feasting. But the holiday isn’t always picture-perfect. If you deal with anxiety, OCD, and/or depression, it’s important to manage your stress, so you can continue to function—and have some fun! Read on for ways to relieve or eliminate Thanksgiving stress.

Thanksgiving Stressor #1: Traffic

Heavy traffic any day of the week can chip away at your ability to remain calm and composed. With everyone grocery shopping and traveling for Thanksgiving, there are even more cars on the road—and more stressed drivers. This spike in traffic can cause some serious Thanksgiving anxiety.

How to Deal with Thanksgiving Traffic

This Thanksgiving stressor may seem inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be! You can now use data published by Google Maps to figure out the best and worst times to be on the road. According to c|net:

“Lots of people are on the road the Wednesday before Thanksgiving…Traffic is also a bit heavier than normal on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, so if you are taking Wednesday off of work, it might make sense to leave Wednesday morning rather than Tuesday night. And if you can make it in time, leave Thanksgiving morning; there is no bump in traffic on Thanksgiving morning compared with a normal Thursday morning.”

When is the best time to get on the road? “…generally at the crack of dawn…” And the worst time? “…in the late afternoon.”

If you use this traffic data to your advantage, you can reduce or eliminate one of the major causes of Thanksgiving stress.

You could also try taking care of your big grocery shop as early as possible. Struggling to find everything you need in a crowded grocery store can be stressful, especially if you’re already worried about planning the perfect Thanksgiving meal. By waiting too long, you run the risk of something on your shopping list being sold out. So get out there early!

Thanksgiving Stressor #2: Family Conflict

Everyone would like Thanksgiving Day to be a time to bond with the whole family and be merry. Unfortunately, one common cause of Thanksgiving stress is family conflict, whether it’s anticipated or real. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Heated arguments about politics, religion, or social issues
  • Inappropriate drunken behavior, such as outbursts or rude comments
  • Over-controlling or critical family members
  • Loved ones who don’t get along
  • Unruly children

All too often, family togetherness can create tension and arguments, rather than closeness and joy.

How to Deal with Family Conflict

There are many ways that you can avoid family conflict or at least minimize the chances of it happening. Here are some key tips for dealing with this kind of Thanksgiving stress:

Set Realistic Expectations

Don’t buy into the glossy Thanksgiving ads that portray the holiday as a perfectly happy time with the family. Be thankful for the wonderful moments, and accept that some less-than-wonderful ones will happen during this stressful time of year.

Set Boundaries

This could mean not inviting certain family members because you know they cause conflict.

Have Everyone Agree on Topics or Issues That Won’t Be Discussed

Divisive issues can bring out the worst in people. If conversation does get heated, steer it in another direction.

Decide How Many Days You Will Be Under the Same Roof with Your Family

And stick to that number. It’s much better to feel like you’d want to spend more time together than be eagerly awaiting everyone’s departure.

Be Assertive

Regardless of your age, it’s important to take a stand if a family member acts in an unacceptable way or makes others uncomfortable. You don’t need to call them out in front of everyone; pull them to the side to let them know how you feel.

thanksgiving stress

Allow Others to Do Things Their Own Way

Sometimes it’s important to pick your battles, so you don’t become overly stressed. Express your preferences and hold your ground, but not at the expense of maintaining healthy relationships with your family.

Resolve Disagreements with Family Before Thanksgiving Day

Then you can avoid arguments at the dinner table!

Thanksgiving Stressor #3: Creating the Best Thanksgiving Meal

Do you feel pressure to create the best meal for your family? Do you want everyone to be comfortable, relaxed, and in good spirits? This can feel especially overwhelming if you have family members with high expectations, who you’re afraid to disappoint.

How to Deal with the Pressure of Perfection

You can lessen the stress of preparing your Thanksgiving meal in a number of ways:

Create a Plan

This includes a guest list and a comprehensive shopping list.

Prepare as Much Food as You Can in Advance

Many desserts, side dishes, and bread can be made and stored ahead of time. This will save you from the stress of cooking everything on the big day.

Get Family or Guests Involved

You don’t have to take on sole responsibility for everything. Ask your family or your guests to help clean, put up decorations, fold napkins, make place cards, and dress up the table. This will also keep people out the kitchen!

Plan a Potluck

Part of dealing with stress is sharing the load. To prevent you slaving away in the kitchen, ask your guests to bring food or drinks. Just make sure you are clear about who is bringing what, so you don’t end up with 10 cans of cranberry sauce at the table!

The most important part of this holiday isn’t getting to Thanksgiving dinner on time, crafting a five-star meal, or creating the perfect picture of a family. It’s being thankful for the good things in your life. Look forward to the things you enjoy about Thanksgiving, whether that’s feasting, watching football, playing with your kids, or indulging in some alone time.

If you find your anxiety, depression, or OCD acting up this holiday season, schedule TMS treatments. They can help you get back to a calm state of mind, so you can meet the stresses of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, and more head on!

About Valon Ford

Valon was born and raised in Michigan but now makes her home in New Jersey, where she works with HPR Treatment Centers as a Clinical Specialist. Valon is also a full time nursing student at Jersey College School of Nursing, CPR-certified, and holds a certificate as a Nursing Assistant. She has worked in various roles in healthcare for over 12 years, including pharma, oncology, care coordination, acute care, rehabilitation, billing and authorizations.

She is married to her high school sweetheart and is a proud mother of eight biological children.

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