Dealing with the stress of Holiday GatheringsAlthough we like to think that getting together for Thanksgiving and the holidays is as wonderful at this Norman Rockwell painting, the truth is that, for many, these events are quite stressful.  Longstanding interpersonal conflicts and struggles for control can upset the most perfectly planned events.   Here are some tips to avoid trouble and make this festive time more enjoyable and less anxiety ridden:

1) Think ahead.  Don’t just let family gatherings “just happen”. Think about what is most upsetting for you. Have a plan and realize that you can influence how things will go.  Things will be different if you act differently.

2) Be specific about what parts of the day you’ve had the most trouble with in the past. Review the bad experiences of previous years and identify in detail how or why things went wrong.  Pay attention to particular people you have trouble with. Keep safe distances away.

3) Imagine doing things differently.   Remember you have options and don’t always have to do things the same way that they always have been done.  Ask yourself “What would make things better ?” in a given situation.

4) Have an escape plan.  If you start to feel uncomfortable or things are getting out of hand don’t let them escalate. Give yourself permission to step outside or if necessary leave the situation.  Remember that you are not trapped.

5) Worst case scenario: If holiday festivities are really bad or involves being around abusers or deniers of abuse, remember you don’t have to go or participate at all.  Avoiding added toxic exposure is important for those that are healing.  If worry about holiday times become truly intrusive and disruptive of your life, reach out and contact a therapist to talk to.


Holidays can be joyous times and take a few minutes to plan ahead can relieve much of the anxiety that can spoil the fun and distract us from appreciating the blessing we have to be thankful for.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!