For some of you, a trip home for Thanksgiving with the family is a welcome reprieve from the events of the past week. For others, there is dread in anticipating the political differences that will inevitably come up over dinner. While differing politics may have always colored your visits home, this is a particularly raw time to be facing division in your family.
Here are some tips for keeping visits home stress free this holiday season:
1. Keep it light. Maybe in the past you have engaged in heated political debates in an effort to meaningful discuss issues you care about. Keeping it light means finding a way to delicately pivot topics away from politics, such as asking about recent vacations or to see pictures of new kids or grandchildren.
Keeping it light isn't selling out, it is pacing yourself.
It is knowing your own limits, and how the weeks following one of the toughest election cycles might not be the time to get into the most passionate argument you have had yet with your grandmother.
2. Find some alone time. Even if it is for an hour here or there, try to find some time by yourself to be alone. Journaling, meditating, or exercise are great ways to use this alone time to process whatever feelings you might be coming up for you. Self-care will help you build resilience and endurance so you can stay focused on the positives of being home with family.
3. Identify your wing-person. Find a buddy in your closest sibling, cousin, or if you have a partner or friend coming home with you. Decide on who this person will be in advance, and plan to distract each other through the difficult conversations. Agree to keep each other accountable in not starting heated arguments over turkey, and help one another keep it loving and light, and make jokes when you start losing patience.
4. Go easy on the booze. Your impulse might be the opposite. But actually, alcohol leads to loss of inhibition, and therefore greater risk of saying something you may regret later. An argument with a family member who holds differing politics from you might be much more tempting when you are unable to think through the consequences of your words or actions.
Also, sleep is poorly effected by alcohol, leading to greater bouts of insomnia.
A hangover and a bad night's sleep is not a great recipe for getting through another day with the family.
5. Focus on gratitude. Harvard Health Publications states, "In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."
As best you can, try to focus on the blessings in the present moment, the blessings in your past, and your hope and gratitude for your future.
Dr. Ayelet Krieger is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified yoga teacher who is dedicated to helping you live mindfully to beat stress and maximize joy. Click here to learn about services offered at Oasis Therapy Center and click here to schedule your free consultation.