If you have an anxiety disorder, holidays like Thanksgiving can trigger racing thoughts, extra stress, and maybe even panic attacks. Everything from planning a big meal to dealing with difficult family members can leave you feeling undone, strung out, frazzled, and exhausted.
That’s no way to enjoy a holiday. If you choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s look at some ways you can keep yourself on track as November 23 approaches.
Get Extra Therapy
Therapy is an integral part of a treatment plan for anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps clients learn how to observe their thought processes, notice the negativity and catastrophizing that might characterize them, and then shift toward more positive thinking.
Thanksgiving, or any big event, can trigger a slew of panicked thinking. There’s so much to do and plan and coordinate (especially if you’re the person to whom the caregiving duties typically fall). There’s also, if you have an anxiety disorder, so much you could worry about – planning, buying, timing, and cooking food; finding places for overnight guests to stay; cleaning!; and more. What it usually boils down to is one overarching worry: how can I make sure everyone is happy?
If you know that Thanksgiving is stressful for you, arrange with your therapist to have an extra session or two leading up to the holiday. Yes, this will take time out of your already busy days, but you’ll probably find that you leave these extra sessions with some perspective and a sense of calm.
Let Go of Perfection and Delegate
Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Maybe you take pride in hosting a large family gathering and providing most of the food and entertainment for it. Or maybe you just prefer to be in control to make sure everything goes as efficiently as possible. But are those goals worth the extra stress?
We strongly suggest delegating the work. Enlist your partner, your children, or another close friend or family member to sit down with you and make a plan. What needs to be accomplished and on what timeline? Who can help? Maybe your teenager won’t do as good a job cleaning the bathroom as you would, but maybe that’s okay. Maybe your partner would rather watch TV all day than be part of the cooking, but you can be firm about what you need. If they don’t feel good about cooking, enlist them to wash and put away dishes or prepare the place cards or peel potatoes.
Be Okay Saying No
Maybe someone in your family insists on having apple pie, but you hate making apple pie. Until now, you’ve done it anyway. This year, try something new. Say no. Say, “Making apple pie is not something I enjoy, and I’m not going to do it this year. Feel free to make an apple pie yourself or to buy one.”
Maybe, secretly, you don’t like cooking or having a bunch of extra people in your house. Maybe you don’t like how the women always clean up while the men watch football. This is the year to set some boundaries.
Stick with Your Self-Care Routine
It’s so easy to abandon our daily self-care practices when we’re under stress or when our normal routine changes. Do your best to sustain the practices that bring you peace and keep you feeling healthy and calm. This might mean you continue with your healthy diet rather than succumbing to the sugary, fatty treats of the season. Or it may mean you continue to exercise at your regular time, giving yourself the break and adrenaline boost you need. It may mean you don’t abandon your morning meditation practice so you can get started on the day’s tasks a little earlier.
Make the Holiday Meaningful For You
What do you need from the Thanksgiving holiday? What feels special and important? Is it family time or the time off work or the delicious food or the chance to reflect on what you love about your life? Maybe a traditional Thanksgiving celebration does not offer anything to you aside from extra stress. If that’s the case, change it. With your close family and/or friends, come up with a way to honor the day that leaves you feeling happy, relaxed, and grateful.
Don’t be a Turkey: Get Help When You Need it
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues, reach out for professional guidance. At Miramont Behavioral Health in Middleton, WI, we understand the power of stress and how it can lead to or exacerbate a host of mental and physical problems. Let us provide the individualized, compassionate care that can help you find your footing again.