Brace yourselves—the holidays are coming.
Sure, the holidays are supposed to be a time of family, friends, and warm, fuzzy feelings; a time that brings out the best of humanity. They can also be stressful, demanding, emotional, painful, and generally exhausting. And when we’re exhausted, it brings out the worst in us.
We all want the ideal holiday season, but that’s not our reality. Still, with a little preparation, you can achieve a better holiday season. One way to do that is by acknowledging the potential pitfalls of the season so you know how to handle them. To that end, here are seven common pitfalls to look out for this Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to remember how much we don’t have our lives together, and nobody is as good as your loved ones at pointing out how imperfect yours really is. It’s tempting to pretend everything is great just so your pride isn’t wounded.
Remind yourself nobody is perfect. Think back on the highlights of the past few months: the most exciting parts; the most fulfilling parts; the most rewarding parts. Focus on the good things going on in your life, instead of getting stuck on the less-than-perfect parts.
We don’t have our lives together, but it can seem like those around us do, like our sister Katie with her six-figure salary, or cousin Jeff with his white-picket-fence life. If your family’s questions didn’t make you feel crummy, comparing lives with them should do the trick.
Again, nobody is perfect. Not even your sister Katie. Reflect on the things about your life, job, and personality that you appreciate the most. While you’re at it, reflect on the personality traits you admire most about your family—not the things they have, but the people they are.
This one’s specifically for you single people. I know the questions you’re dreading from your family. “Any special person in your life right now?” “Well, whatever happened to ex-you’re-trying-to-forget?” Pair that with all of your similarly aged family members who brought boyfriends, girlfriends, or spouses, and you might start feeling exceptionally single.
Don’t pull up your favorite dating app, and repeat after me: You do not need a relationship to be happy or whole. Yes, relationships are nice. But rushing into a relationship just for the sake of having one rarely ends well. You know this. I know this. Your cousin Gina who’s currently embarrassed by her boyfriend’s behavior knows this. Moving on.
Finally, everybody’s caught up on everybody else’s business, the food is served, and you’ve settled into a comfortable silence as everyone eats. Things are looking up. Then, Uncle George starts sharing his thoughts on the recent election. You feel frustration boiling up in your gut, along with the temptation to start a “discussion” that you know will get out of hand.
Remind yourself of all the things you love about Uncle George—he is more than his political views. If that doesn’t work, remind yourself of everything you love about the rest of your family—they probably don’t want to listen to you two debate. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and appreciating the people around us. Set aside the politics, just for today.
It’s Thanksgiving. Need I say more? You probably put more on your first plate than you needed, and now you’re thinking of going back for seconds because the turkey and stuffing were just so good!
Again, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. Start by appreciating the food you have on our plate. Try to eat slowly, savoring it. Wait at least 30 minutes before going back for seconds, to decide whether you really want it.
(That being said, this may be your only chance each year to have Aunt Janet’s amazing pumpkin pie. If you do get seconds, I won’t judge.)
…You went for seconds, didn’t you? And now you’re so full you just want to spend the rest of the day sprawled on a couch, watching football or sleeping.
Come up with some fun activities to do with the family. Instead of watching football, play flag football. You could also go for a walk around the neighborhood or take some of the nieces and nephews to the local park.
Now, after spending the whole day celebrating all the things you’re thankful for, you’re eyeing those Black Friday ads. Maybe you don’t need those things, but they’re so cheap, it’d be a sin not to buy them, right?
Think about how awful it will be getting up early, fighting through crowds of soccer moms, only to buy something you don’t actually need.
Honestly, there’s no better way to end Thanksgiving than by reflecting on the blessings in your life and the things you are grateful for. If, after doing that, you still feel it’s worth dealing with Black Friday to get that new TV, go for it—but I sure won’t envy you.
Now to get back in touch with reality.
Even if you watch out for all seven of these pitfalls, your Thanksgiving won’t be perfect. That’s okay—we’re not meant to be perfect. Reflect on the good parts, let go of the rest, and just think: There’s always Christmas.