Feel anxious around Thanksgiving? Here's how to navigate that
With Thanksgiving upon us, most of us are preparing to gather with loved ones. And some of us … may not be looking forward to it.
People respond to the season’s festivities in different ways. For some, it can cause anxiety, especially if there’s tension or differences among family members. For others, it increases feelings of loneliness.
So, how do we navigate holiday get-togethers to accommodate everyone best?
Two psychology experts from UNLV offered some tips for getting through the season.
Attend — or not — at your comfort level: Natasha Mosby, a clinical social worker and UNLV lecturer, has her clients determine their influence and concerns. "A lot of my clients do want to participate at the level that's comfortable for them. 'Hey, I'm going to show up and stay for 20-30 minutes.' Or, 'I just don't want to participate, I want to send my gift ... or my items for cooking and I want to leave.'"
When party planning, don't feel pressured to overdeliver: Social media and tradition have upped the stakes for holidays, dinners, parties and gift exchanges. You don't have to cave in to all that. "I've had families that say, 'Let's do a potluck, let's all get together, no fancy decorations, no dressing up— let's just show up in this space with your favorite dish," says Mosby. "You can do less, do some personal things this year. How do we set that tone and rewrite the narrative that we've been told that we have to be there putting ourselves in debt — or just putting more on our plate to meet the needs of someone else that ... doesn't feel good for us?"
To avoid political arguments, set the rules ahead of time: "If you're hosting this dinner, you are the boundary maker, right?" says Vaida Kazlauskaite, assistant professor a UNLV's Couple and Family Therapy program. "You can make the rules of your household. So if you know that you're inviting people who love to talk politics, and you just don't want to deal with that at this dinner, go ahead and tell them, hey, we are looking forward to having everyone here and everyone's personalities here. But let's avoid topics X, Y and Z." Mosby adds: Designate another area, like the outside patio, for free discussion, and the dinner table as a politics- or business-free area.
Before excluding that one argumentative person in the family... "Is it only because you think they're going to stir the pot and you don't want that discomfort?" says Kazlauskaite. "Because we learn from that discomfort. So invite them, let's learn from one another, right? So it's not just, cut this person out because they're a black sheep."
Guests: Natasha Mosby, licensed clinical social worker, lecturer for UNLV School of Social Work; Vaida Kazlauskaite, assistant professor, couple and family therapy program, UNLV