Here in the US, Thanksgiving is just a few days away. While the holiday should be filled with gratitude, but as the day grows near, it’s not unusual for people to feel more panicked than peaceful. The holiday—and, for many, the launch of the “holiday season”—is meant to remind us to be thankful, but with all of the extra stress—the family time, the meal preparations, and the pressure of getting the festivities just right—it can be difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude.
But staying thankful, even during the most stressful moments, is one of the best ways to fill the day with peace and positivity. Below you'll find four potentially stressful situations you might encounter this Thanksgiving—and four ways you can be grateful for them. (And if you're not celebrating Thanksgiving, don't click off just yet—these might be situations you'll encounter during other holidays or even on a daily basis!)
Stressor No. 1 : Too much togetherness
You might love your family, but spending significant amounts of time with all of them at once can be a bit much. It’s hard not to get caught up in wanting to be somewhere else when you’ve had enough family time, but when you find yourself overwhelmed by those you love, take a moment to imagine life without them and be thankful for the moments you have with them.
Stressor No. 2 : Unexpected delays
Nothing ramps up holiday stress like an unexpected delay—a flight grounded by bad weather, a turkey taking way too long to cook. Instead of fretting about being late or having to wait, try to enjoy the extra time you have on your hands. Read an extra chapter or two in your book, call a loved one for a chat, or start a board game with the family. Rather than dwelling on the delay, be thankful for the surprise of extra time.
Stressor No. 3 : Maddening mishaps
Every year it happens: something goes wrong. The food’s burnt. The taboo topic is brought up. The guests who declined arrive anyway. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, choose to focus on what’s right. A mishap might shine a light on a minor catastrophe, but you have the option to redirect that beam to all that’s still going right. Be grateful for the things that have fallen properly into place.
Stressor No. 4 : Awkward interactions
During holiday festivities, you’re bound to encounter someone you’d rather not see, cueing awkwardness. Oddly enough, awkward feelings are something you should be grateful for. When you feel awkward, you have a chance to learn, to ask yourself what makes you uncomfortable and either choose to overcome or avoid it. Be thankful for that opportunity.
We all know that it can be hard to stay thankful all day long on Thanksgiving, especially when the day is often filled with unexpected and atypical stress. But if you keep one thing in mind on the big day, let it be this: stay present.
Most of our stress is caused by focusing on the past—what a relative said or did last year that's still irking you, measuring this year's festivities to a past holiday that remember (perhaps not entirely accurately) as perfect, or continuing to fret over work-related issues that happened earlier in the week—or by focusing on the future—imagining the domino effect of delays that will occur when your flight is late, worrying about how you'll get all of the Christmas tasks crossed off in less than a month, or dwelling on what others will say about your cooking / attire / decor when they leave your family gathering.
When we stress, we're in the past or the future. The present is what it is. When you don't compare it to what was or assess how it will impact what will be, you stay in the moment and you're able to enjoy more easily enjoy the moments you're in. Staying present amidst the holiday hecticness is challenging, but if you focus on the now, you'll find it much easier to stay positive, peaceful, and thankful this Thanksgiving.