Turning The Tables on Turkey Day Trauma & Trepidation
Can you believe it’s almost Thanksgiving?
What happened to Fall?
Although the song says “Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,” the fact is that most of us experience a sense of dread as we envision our upcoming holiday gatherings and being around our family.
Feelings of resistance, anxiety, and resignation start to bubble up as we anticipate the drama and dis-ease that will undoubtedly accompany the candied yams and pumpkin pie. As we contemplate the upcoming holiday, our minds naturally drift back to Thanksgivings past and any hope of warm and fuzzy feelings turn cold as we think about our family dynamic and the scenarios that consistently cause trauma and trepidation at our Thanksgiving table. Situations like:
- How do I once again try to explain to my family why I have to bring my own food since I eat vegan or gluten-free?
- What can I do to appease my parents and in-laws, who are all divorced but expect us to show up and make their Thanksgiving meal the most significant one?
- How should I handle it this year when, at the last minute, my sister-in-law once again decides to invite four more people to dinner?
- What do I do when Uncle Bob inevitably brings up politics?
- How do I not get pissed off at my family when they stay glued to the television as I do all of the work in the kitchen?
Your first instinct might be to cancel Thanksgiving or hide because you just want to avoid the inevitable, or you are afraid you will do what you have done in the past, which is to remain silent and pretend things are “fine” as you face dive into the mashed potatoes, and drown your sorrows in a bottle of wine.
But the problem is that choosing self-sabotage over self-love is never the best option. Neither is doing what you have done in the past — avoidance, settling for crumbs, enduring the inappropriate actions, behaviors, and comments of others, or allowing yourself to self-implode and then berating and beating yourself up for it later.
It is time to turn the tables on turkey day trauma and trepidation.
It is time to declare a no-tolerance policy when it comes to putting ourselves in unhealthy scenarios in which we do unto others better than we do unto ourselves as we compromise our wants, needs, desires, and truth.
It is time to initiate some new holiday traditions!
Structures and boundaries are acts of self-care and demonstrations of self-love. In my book The Integrity Advantage, one of my favorite sections is about creating an “Integrity Protection Program,” a set of structures and practices that aid us in protecting our highest. To help navigate the holiday pitfalls, it is crucial that we be proactive about formulating a holiday Integrity Protection Plan and put structures in place to safeguard our sanity. We must commit to establishing a clear set of ground rules, some for us to adhere to and others that we convey to our loved ones. Even though it would be nice to think that our family members and close friends know our needs, assuming often gets us in trouble and causes misunderstandings. As we take on being proactive about turning the tables on turkey day trauma and trepidation, we must also commit to communicating our requests and boundaries to others in a clear and timely manner. It is okay to:
- Tell your sister-in law that the cut-off day for adding additional guests is the Monday before Thanksgiving.
- Give each family member a list of tasks you need them to perform and a time frame for when they need to be done by.
- Call your hostess and ask what they will be serving to see if it meets your dietary needs and then check if you can bring some “sugar-free” or gluten-free options.
- Remind your in-laws that you will be eating dinner at your mother’s house and will be at their house in the afternoon to say hello.
- Declare the Thanksgiving table a “no-politics” zone.
Changing our holiday karma is possible. But we need to be as mindful about creating our holiday Integrity Protection Program as we are about planning our Thanksgiving menu. My hope is that, to whatever extent you need to, you can turn the tables on turkey day trauma and trepidation and have the yummiest of Thanksgiving feasts.
Transformational Action Steps
(1) Start formulating your holiday Integrity Protection Program.
- What boundaries do you need to establish with others?
- What structures do you need to create that will support you in successfully navigating your family’s issues and dealing with their dynamics?
(2) Make a conscious choice to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and walk through the holiday with eyes of love and gratitude.