First of all I would like to wish everyone a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving this year!
As Thanksgiving approaches later this week it might be nice to share some thoughts on how to enjoy this special day from a healthy mental/emotional point of view. Here are some ideas that might help in making your Thanksgiving as stress-free as possible and maximize your satisfaction.
First of all, realize that people approach Thanksgiving in a variety of ways. On one extreme we have the pure givers: they begin preparing well in advance, get up really early on Thanksgiving and spend hours in the kitchen working and giving their best. Their role is service and they get satisfaction from it. On the other extreme are the pure receivers: they spend the day being waited on and served, watching television and drinking to maximize their satisfaction. Most people tend to be in-between these two extremes to greater or lesser extents.
Regardless of how you view yourself in this spectrum of personality, the most important thing to help you through the day/week is to be thankful for the great variety of people and focus on what brings you personal satisfaction and freedom from stress. Try not to change or convert others to be just like you: it rarely if ever works! Let all the “turkeys” show off their colors and be fine with it. Some givers may get frustrated at the lack of help coming from the receivers. Let it be. On the other side of the coin, the receivers may feel bad inside seeing the givers doing all the work. It happens!
These feelings are totally natural and I am not going to say one side is more right than the other because everyone has their own litany of reasons/excuses for the role that they take on. For example, the receiver might think they are deserving a day off because they work so hard all the other days of the year. The giver may take on their role because it was what their mother or grandmother taught them to do. The list of reasons are many, regardless of right or wrong from your personal point of view.
So let the giver serve and the receiver take today. Embrace our differences and be thankful for these people in your life. You may only see these people a few times in the year and so what good is it to try to figure these people out or even try to change them? Is it worth the mental energy?
What you can do, however, is work on yourself and why you have chosen the role you play in this Thanksgiving “theater”. If you tend to be more of a giver, are you really happy giving or do you resent it in any way? If you are a receiver, do you embrace the taking, or do you feel that you might want to help a little more this year? These things can be changed! Here are a few ways to make it happen:
First of all, if you are a pure giver or receiver, then you will be fine. You will give or receive regardless of what happens. These are the rare extremes however.
If you are a giver, but would rather be more of a receiver, then you might try to let people know in advance that you need some help and request assistance from others to make your day a little easier. You do not have to make everything and do everything (unless that is what you love to do!). Ask others to make the mashed potatoes, dessert, etc.. Allow variety to come to the table and embrace it and be thankful. It does not matter that the food might not be as good as if you made it yourself. You can email your friends and family a week or two before requesting their help. Write the email in a positive way. This approach also helps out the people that tend to be receivers but themselves would like to help out in some way (just not too much). Now these people can contribute to the table of thanks in their own way. If they cannot cook, they can bring drinks or something that is store-bought. If they need recipes, they can be shared.
If you tend to be more of a receiver, ask if you can help first. Be proactive and ask the host of the dinner if you can bring something – anything. You can bring food, music, coffee, drinks, candles, extra napkins/plates, etc.. Serve and help others who might not be able to help such as the elderly or disabled. Wash your plate after eating or help with the dishes. It’s the little things that can make a huge difference.
While celebrating Thanksgiving, try not to intentionally push any emotional buttons on others, even if these “hot topics” don’t bother you. If you know someone doesn’t like to talk politics, then avoid that subject even though it might be your favorite type of discussion. Likewise, if someone engages you in a conversation that you are uncomfortable discussing, then kindly excuse yourself from the conversation and move on. No need to create tension on a day meant to be thankful.
Having spent a lot of time on the emotion of Thanksgiving, there is one more thing to mention: do not worry about the type of foods that you are eating this day: worry only about the amount of food you put inside you. Eat with no regrets, but do not become a glutton on this day. Yes, you can stuff yourself, but do not intentionally get sick in the process. Only you know your limits. I suggest that you make a large plate and do not go for seconds. Have one dessert, a good one that you normally would not eat and stop there. Do not drink to excess. Take a casual walk after you eat.
At the end of the celebration, be sure to thank everyone for the food and company. Remember, many of these same people will be seen again soon so you want to leave in the kindest possible way. Do not overstay your welcome, if you find yourself wanting to stay longer, tell the host that you would like to come over more often in the future, not just on holidays.
I hope these ideas will help to make everyone’s Thanksgiving experience a happy and healthy event. Enjoy your day everyone!