Advertisers during the Thanksgiving season present an exaggerated image of the simple holiday. Sumptuous feasts bring together far-flung relatives. The coolness of the weather chills past arguments and lets bygone be bygones.
Moreover, people perpetuate this unreachable ideal by promoting glittery, heavily edited holiday images on their social networks.
Unfortunately, the expectation can be so high during this season that people who are estranged from their families of origin or those who are far from them due to military or business reasons can get very low-spirited this week.
“There’s this idea that it’s supposed to be perfect, and if it’s not, the person asks, ‘What’s wrong with me?’” states Elaine Rodino, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist.
Expectations for the perfect holiday are sky-high, which triggers myriad issues related to mental health. However, statistically, the number of “traditional households” in this country is not in the majority, Rodino adds.
To help you lessen that stress and to embrace the true spirit of the holiday, this post will offer ideas for immersing oneself in a spirit of thankfulness.
After all, the holiday name itself tells you what its focus is: giving thanks.
1. Celebrate Thanksgiving with your family-from-the-heart
During Thanksgiving, you may feel that everyone in the United States is celebrating the feast with all their relatives. However, you’re not alone. Some of your friends may not have relatives nearby for the holiday or you may know other folks estranged from their kin. If you want to share the day with special friends, invite them over for Thanksgiving.
No rules exist for the feast. You don’t need to be related by blood. Invite relatives and friends whose company you enjoy. Give thanks for the good people in your life, whatever role they play in your life.
(This concept of celebrating with friends has been picking up steam lately. Do a Google search for Friendsgiving, and you’ll find oodles of ideas for celebrating.)
2. Celebrate the hidden treasures in your life
As an adult survivor of emotional child abuse, you may find yourself focusing on the darkness in your life rather than the light. And whereas there’s nothing wrong with self-reflection, one must balance it out by looking for some goodness, something of hope in one’s present.
A holiday can make finding that hope difficult. You may just focus on loss. Where are the relatives? Why couldn’t my family be normal for the holidays? Why does everyone get a real Thanksgiving except me?
But remember that you are a wonder. It’s a tremendous blessing that you were able to see the emotional child abuse for what it is and now head towards a life of healing and light. That’s a huge blessing.
YOU are a blessing.
Then also think about the beauty in your life and focus on all the neat treasures tucked into your day that you may overlook or even feel silly about being grateful for them. On Thanksgiving, celebrate those treasures, no matter how big or how small.
“Today, I am grateful for… my awesome purple-framed glasses that help me see better, for listening to new music on Spotify for free, for Cary Grant movies, for art supplies and the hope and expectation in blank sheets of paper, for Cupcake Red Velvet wine, for the crunch of autumn leaves when I go on a nature walk, for the graceful silhouettes of geese against the gray sky…”
Give thanks for the world around you and all the beauty within it, even if you have to dig for it sometimes.
3. Indulge in a hobby… with all this uninterrupted time
What hobbies or activities are you often putting off because of important commitments? If you’re spending Thanksgiving by yourself, indulge yourself in the pleasure of that hobby without interruptions. Want to paint? Practice your music? Work on your karate skills? Try a new recipe?
Be grateful for this gift and use it to your heart’s delight.
If your hobby is watching movies and analyzing them, go for it. Just steer away from holiday-themed movies, as they can trigger nostalgia and longing on this day.
4. Reach out to other people
“Help others,” recommends Laurie Stoneham in her article 10 Things to Do If You’re Alone on the Holidays. “Volunteering at a mission or shelter for the homeless will help you feel connected.”
You can find those places to volunteer online, check your newspaper or church bulletin, or check your city’s message board.
5. Treat the day like any other day
“Not everyone is down with holiday events,” writes blogger Kat Dawkins at Psych Central. “And that is perfectly OK.
“Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or weird about not participating in the Thanksgiving holiday. We are not all interested in that type of thing.
“If the day is a trigger for you, make sure you surround yourself with others in a positive environment. Keep yourself busy your mind off negative things as much as you can.”
Have any tips for a peaceful Thanksgiving holiday? I’d love to hear them. Just drop a note in the Comments.