Thanksgiving can and should be a time of relaxation, family, and some well-deserved time off. However, if you are the one providing that wonderful day of relaxation for everyone in your family, if you are new to recovery and facing a tense Thanksgiving dinner with family, or if you have no destination in mind whatsoever, Thanksgiving can cause stress rather than relieve it.
Here are 10 ways to minimize Thanksgiving stress and use the holiday to fortify your recovery rather than put it at risk:
- Simplify. Do you have a plan to head to four different houses on Thanksgiving, prepare a six-course meal, or host a few dozen people at your house? Trim it back. Visit with one or two people on Thanksgiving Day and make plans to visit with others over the rest of the weekend. Offer to make the turkey and ask others to bring side dishes or desserts. If it’s too late to cut down the guest list, ask everyone to bring some nonalcoholic beverages and an appetizer to contribute so you are not tasked with too much prep for entertaining. Then, ask a few people to stay behind and help you clean up.
- Say “no.” If you are invited somewhere that you feel may not be a good place for you emotionally or physically, turn down the invitation – even if it is your parent’s house or one of your best friends. If someone asks if they can bring someone with them to your house for Thanksgiving and you are uncomfortable with that person or someone else at the table may be, or you are uncertain you will have enough to accommodate them, say “no.”
- Get a good night’s sleep. In fact, spend the weeks before Thanksgiving Day going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time every morning, giving yourself a solid foundation of restorative sleep to help you manage your emotions and feel more “even keel” on Thanksgiving Day.
- Keep up with your recovery. It is a good idea to make sure you are still getting to 12-Step meetings and engaging in holistic treatments even if your usual therapy sessions or doctors’ appointments are canceled.
- Forget the whole thing. No matter what you have on the agenda for Thanksgiving, if it is causing you stress and triggering cravings for drugs and alcohol, cancel it. There is nothing worth putting your sobriety at risk.