Thanksgiving. It’s such a wonderful time of year. It is a time when we take a moment to stop, think and acknowledge gratitude. Unfortunately, the holidays are also a time when many experience an increase in feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.
1.Cook Mindfully – Are you responsible for cooking for everyone this year? Cooking a large meal can be super stressful! Trust me, I’ve been there. Trying to cook a meal for 18 with one oven is no easy task! Cooking can be a therapeutic experience, though. When you’re preparing the Thanksgiving meal this year, engage your five senses to make it a mindful activity.
What does the item you’re cooking look like? Are there any notable characteristics about it? Such as it’s shape, color, etc.? How about how it smells? Does it make any sounds when you cut, chop, or slice it? Or any sounds as it’s cooking in the oven? What does the utensil in your hand feel like while you hold it? As you taste what you’re cooking, truly experience the taste without judgment (like saying “This is too salty/It’s overcooked/I didn’t get it right…..”)
Not cooking this year? Then try eating mindfully. First, take stock of your hunger. Bring your attention to the sensations in your body. Is your stomach grumbling? Or are you a little full from all those yummy appetizers? Make the decision of how much food to take, and then use your five senses to experience that food. Notice what it looks/smells/sounds/feels/tastes like. The added benefit is that one is less likely to overeat when eating mindfully. (Leaving plenty of room for that pumpkin pie!)
2. Listen – Family conversations are known to be stressful for many. Someone says something and then bam! Your blood pressure is through the roof! When someone says something difficult, stop and think. Is there an urge to defend your opinion or position? Why is that? Thinking first gives you the chance to response instead of react. See if you can suspend your inclination to judge what cranky Uncle Bill is saying. Instead, try to look at his comment as just that – his. Cranky Uncle Bill is allowed to have his opinion (as jaw-dropping and irrational as it may be) just as you are allowed to have yours. Eat your turkey and smile to yourself, being grateful for the ability to think differently.
3. Make a Gratitude List – Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do this! Sit down and write all the things that you are thankful for. See if you can come up with just 10. If you can get more, great! To give yourself more of a challenge, try and find something to be grateful for in a typically challenging situation. For example, are you stressed about cooking? What about instead, if you said to yourself, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to make a meal for my loved ones, and grateful to have the means to do so.” Finding the positive in a difficult situation can make it more manageable.
4. Be Still – Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season. There have been a million commercials already about how many shopping days are left. It’s no wonder why anxiety spikes around the holidays! With all these things to do, it’s easy to get caught up in your to-do list and miss the joys of the season. Take a few minutes every day to stop and be still. Soak in the moment. Take stock of what you are thinking and what you are feeling. Allow yourself that time to just be with you. Throughout all the stress
5. Breathe – The to-do list is real, but stress makes it harder to get things done. Increased levels of stress can: dramatically decrease energy levels, increase tension, cause headaches, tension, aches and pain. This list goes on and on. In order to get ahead of it, take a moment to stop and just b r e a t h e. The simple act of taking a deep breath has a whole host of positive effects on the mind and body. And with everything on your to-do list, you deserve some inner peace!
Dana Carretta is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, in Hartsdale, NY. She specializes in clinical psychotherapy to treat children, adolescents and adults with anxiety, behavior and trauma difficulties. Dana has also been a private psychotherapist at Mindful Psychotherapy, LLC, located in Norwalk, CT since 2013.