Thanksgiving plate

How to Navigate Thanksgiving and Cultivate Emotional Resilience

The internet has plenty of information on how to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, but what about how to prepare emotionally? 

Next week, millions of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends and family. While this is a time to relax, eat lots of food, and express gratitude, it can still be stressful. Many people experience dread, anxiety, and even sadness at this time of year, and it’s important to know how to handle these emotions. 

Let’s explore some of the best ways to emotionally prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, especially if you’ve been struggling with substance use or mental health. 

Let Go of Expectations 

One of the reasons why many people feel ‘let down’ by the holidays is because they have high expectations for how things should go. However, expectations can set you up for failure and pain, especially when you have them for other people. 

This Thanksgiving, avoid setting expectations. We know, it’s easier said than done. But dropping your expectations allows you to fully enjoy the holiday and whatever it brings – even if it’s different from what you imagined. As a result, you’ll experience less stress, frustration, and anger, and be fully present in the day’s events. 

Practice Gratitude 

It’s normal to want things to be ‘perfect,’ but remember, we’re trying to let go of expectations this year. Instead, allow yourself to enjoy the holiday however it presents itself. Your worth is not based on how creamy your mashed potatoes are or how moist the turkey is. 

So, rather than giving attention to the ‘little’ things, focus on the good in your life. Having a place to go on Thanksgiving. Spending time with friends and family. Being healthy and sober. Find something to be grateful for, and focus on that. When you do, you’ll see your mood lift. 

Acknowledge Your Thoughts and Feelings 

Remember, no thought or feeling is wrong. That being said, thoughts and feelings are based on how you view things, and they are not necessarily facts. So, take some time to acknowledge your emotions, so that you can process them and move on. You don’t want these negative feelings to ruin your day. 

Also, keep in mind that you are not in charge of others’ happiness. You only have control over yourself. And, if someone intentionally or unintentionally upsets you, be ready to use your coping skills. These skills will help keep you grounded and ensure that you don’t give your attention or energy to negative forces. 

Plan and Accept Help 

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, plan and accept help from others. Nothing leads to more stress than waiting until the last minute to plan and prepare everything. Save recipes in advance and make some dishes ahead of time, so that you can pop them in the oven on Thanksgiving day. 

If you struggle with perfectionism, now is your time to practice letting others in, even if things don’t go your way. Accept help with bringing food, cleaning, organizing, cooking, and more. This is your holiday, too, and you deserve to enjoy it with friends and family. You can’t do this if you’re taking everything on yourself. 

Increase Support 

Before Thanksgiving, make sure you are taking inventory of your needs. This time of year can be stressful for several reasons, and you may be experiencing emotions you haven’t experienced before or in a long time. Attend extra meetings, schedule an extra session with your therapist, or contact your sober friends for support. 

Of course, some of the best support you can give yourself comes from YOU. Take breaks, practice self-care, and don’t overextend yourself. Learn to say no and ask for help when you need it. You can handle what the holiday brings when your physical and emotional needs are met. 

Fill Your Heart with Gratitude this Thanksgiving 

Above all, remember that Thanksgiving is not intended to be stressful. It’s meant to bring people together over a shared meal while focusing on the things you are grateful for. Take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come in your recovery journey. Pour your energy into those who have supported you. When you focus your attention on these areas, you’ll find that you can get through any holiday with a smile on your face.