Thanksgiving is a holiday that asks a lot of us and can offer a lot, as well. For some, the challenge is strictly on a personal level and coping with cooking, traveling, houseguests and extended family time can be overwhelming. Expectations run high for the perfect meal and the perfect family. Living up to high expectations can be challenging even when the holiday and your family relationships are not particularly difficult.
How can we get out from under the negative side of the holiday, in whatever way it most presents itself? It can be helpful to acknowledge and explore your feelings. Start by completing this sentence as you read it, without censoring yourself: Thanksgiving stresses me because…
How do you complete that sentence? Whatever answer you receive is information you can use. The next question to ask is: how do I cope with my stress? Again, the answers can give useful information. Most of us have both positive and negative ways of coping. If you cope with stress by yelling at your spouse and kids, spending too much money, eating too much, slacking off on self-care like yoga and time alone, maybe you can alter this and strengthen your holiday.
When I am stressed I get snappy with people, feel guilty afterwards and overeat. Under the snappiness is anxiety and when it comes to the holidays there is also a sense of loss over loved ones who are gone. I particularly miss my grandmother. She was such a big part of family holidays that when they roll around I miss her even more. Missing her is a good thing but when it’s an invisible stressor I may not be expressing it in such a good way. One thing I can do is talk with my best friend. She was close to her “Nana” too and would understand and listen. Who will you miss at the table and how will you cope?
How can I manage my eating so I’m not waddling up from the table sated and regretful? I can decide to eat half portions of everything I really want. That’s a trick that seems to work for me. I can cook eats foods that I know are healthy and grounding-- foods like pumpkin pie, spinach mashed potatoes and sautéed apples and onions. I can also do yoga. Any videos that are long and flowing along with some meditation afterwards will get me in the right frame of mind and body to be with my family and cook and eat together.
Tonight I am preparing a kitchen sink soup my grandmother used to make—full of barley, collards, peas, turnips, mushrooms. Eating a food I associate with her will help me ground and connect to her and the part of me that is her. To link with my grandmother and others who I miss, I need to reach under my feelings of sadness and loss and acknowledge that I am feeling them and that they matter. Being conscious and eating consciously allows me to express love more fully. I want to be at the Thanksgiving table present to my loved ones and all who are seated there. I’m lucky to have them. I want to give thanks and treat them in a loving, generous way.
Merryl Reichbach, LMSW, ACE, MA. She is a Clinical Social Worker and art therapist with children, teens and their families. She also has a private practice as a certified holistic health counselor (graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) ACE Certified Personal Trainer and loves integrating art, yoga, writing and dance into her life and her work.
Website: Jumping Woman Wellness