How to Survive Thanksgiving with Your Mental Health Intact (Part 2 – 2019)

Thanksgiving meal

Tip #2: Set boundaries. (Tip #1 is in the previous blog post)

Set self boundaries on what you’ll talk about, think about, and how you’ll react around difficult family members. As much as we’d like to, we CANNOT change how other people treat us, what they comment on, and the questions they ask/don’t ask. We CAN choose how we will respond, how we will politely say, “Please don’t make comments about my weight” and brainstorming topics that are more pleasant/easy for both parties to discuss. Set boundaries with them too. Politely ask them to switch topics, change the subject, or leave the room if you’re feeling uncomfortable. I always recommend we discuss things head on and directly when possible. Unfortunately, not all of us have safe enough loved ones/family members to do that. When it’s toxic to share your feelings, set the boundary by not participating, reacting, or trying to “convince them that you’re right/ a good person/etc. etc.”

Tip #3: Plan self care. 

Throughout the holiday season most people forget that we still need recovery, downtime, and to engage in behaviors that keep us centered and peaceful. Exercise, watching netflix, having quiet time for 20 minutes, saying no to too much alcohol, are all small ways we can make sure we get self care. In fact, give yourself permission (and ability) to leave family functions for small periods of time when you’re needing a breather (or to recharge). I would much rather spend smaller periods of time with recharged, peaceful family members than stressed-out, over-functioning family members. 

Tip #4: Limit your phone time.

OH NO, but how will I not be super bored if I don’t use my phone?!?! Calm down, Danny. We got this. Phones eliminate our ability to be authentically connection and are correlated with higher rates of depression/anxiety. In fact, the longer you’re on it, the higher your chance of depression/anxiety. Set two periods of 20 minutes during your day to catch the highlights and respond to texts. When you get bored, try connecting with a family member and asking them about their life, playing a board game, or going for a run to Starbucks. You and your family members will ultimately appreciate the downtime from your phone as well. 

Hope you have a wonderful, mentally healthy Thanksgiving with loved ones,
Jenny Helms, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

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