Five Ways to Prepare for Thanksgiving (Mentally and Emotionally)

Thanksgiving can be harmful to your mental health.

I love the holidays. As a mom, who generally gets along with her siblings, I feel honored to be able to say that. For many, I know that Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a stressful time, being forced to spend time with relatives you have nothing in common with, eat way too much food, and get into arguments that you really want no part of.

For those who dread the holidays, I have compiled a short list of five ways to mentally and emotionally prepare for Thanksgiving. I hope it helps!

Prep yourself. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, mentally prepare yourself by meditating, spending time on forgiveness. Even though family may provoke you, you can choose your mood to a certain extend. If you have issues with a family member, spend this time being mindful of those rifts, and try and look at the situation from their point of view. That way, when faced with them maybe you can come from a place of sympathy and compassion.

Exercise. You’re going to eat a lot, obviously. But exercise also has a huge effect on your mood. Start walking, jogging, or biking in the weeks before. That way, if things get to be too stressful you can take an exercise break during the holiday. I promise you nothing will reset your mood like getting sweaty.

Prepare answers to uncomfortable questions. Your family is bound to ask you a few questions you don’t really want to answer. If you think about your answers to questions beforehand (and especially if you can make your answers funny), it’ll be much easier to avoid any conversational curveballs that your great Aunt Ida might throw your way.

READ MORE: How to Avoid Gaining Holiday Weight

Heal rifts beforehand. If you have beef with any of your family members, but have already decided you would like to bury the hatchet, do it BEFORE the holiday. That way, you don’t provide a dramatic show for the rest of the family and can spend the holiday trying to reconnect. I know this may require setting aside your pride, but you should be thankful that you are both still alive, and well enough to have that opportunity.

Learn some breathing techniques. The holidays are bound to be stressful, and nothing I say can prepare you for what is to come. In the moment however, if you know breathing techniques (even the age-old trick of taking a deep breath and counting to 10), you are much more likely to maintain composure in stressful situations or pointless confrontations.

That being said, some family members are toxic. If being around a certain family member takes you to a dark place mentally, you don’t owe it to anyone to spend time with them. If you don’t want your children around a certain family member, that is your prerogative, too.

Forgiveness doesn’t require contact. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is forgive someone, and love them from a distance. The holidays make that harder obviously, but if you can keep control of your behavior, your emotions will hopefully follow suit. If they don’t, exercise, do some deep breathing, or simply walk away.

Your mental health is worth WAY more than a 20 pound turkey and some canned cranberry sauce.

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