Gratitude: the act (and habit) of being thankful.
This year I’m thankful for many things! I’m thankful that my blog is finally off the ground! Writing about mental health has been both a challenge and a joy. I’m also thankful that I’m having another family get together with delicious food! I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to continue my education every day and broaden my scope of knowledge.
Being thankful has some advantages that we’ve only recently uncovered. University of Southern California released a study in 2015; it outlines a connection between gratitude and morality, connectivity to others, and empathy. Thanksgiving is a great time to get back in touch with what you’re happy about.
Yet holidays can still be a trigger. People coping with trauma may find that holidays call up painful memories. While some isolate due to depression or anxiety, others spend these days crowded around a dysfunctional family without escape.
For those handling stress this Thanksgiving (or any other holiday) here are some quick tips to get some joy out of the holidays.
- Know your limits and plan accordingly. If you suffer from anxiety and your family environment is loud, uncontrollable, and overwhelming – plan to spend only as much time as you can handle. Plan for the amount of time that’s best for you. If your family is supportive, explain your reasons. Always have a plan in place in the event your trip needs to be cut short.
- Try to incorporate things that you enjoy during the holiday. Say aloud “It’s my day too”. Do something special for yourself to boost your mood. Cook your favorite meal, listen to a happy playlist, go to your favorite hiking spot, watch a movie you love.
- Give yourself permission to leave any situation that threatens your emotional stability. Consider using a hotel or staying with a hometown friend if family is overwhelming.
- Avoid mind/mood-altering substances when in distress. I know it can be tempting to drown your sorrows down in oblivion. However, the issues that prompted you to use substances will still be there after the effect has worn off. There is a difference between social use and desperate use, but the lines can be blurred when in a stressful position.
- Don’t base your ideals on movies, friends, social media, or anything else that’s not a realistic standard. Your situation is uniquely yours and doesn’t need to be like anyone else’s. Keep in mind, part of gratitude is understanding other people’s point of view. Your family members may be just as exhausted, irritated, and apprehensive as you are. If you want to bring up emotional topics, make sure the time and setting is conducive.
Enjoy your holidays!