Thanksgiving is a wonderful time filled with love, joy and thanks. However, if you suffer from social anxiety, you may find that your positive thoughts of Thanksgiving dinner with your loved ones quickly turn to dread.
Big holiday meals don’t just bring turkey to the table but also increased socialising, awkward chit-chat and stressful questioning. Here are five things you can do to help you stay relaxed and worry-free.
Take Travel Precautions
With millions of people throughout the country traveling during Thanksgiving week, you’ll want to plan your journey ahead of time to minimize your anxiety. If possible, ask the other guests if they have room for you in their travel plans so you have a trusted companion to keep you calm. If not, you can still reduce your stress by giving yourself plenty of time to arrive at the airport. Consider bringing something calming with you, such as relaxing music, to keep you occupied during the journey.
Keep Yourself Busy
Distraction is a great way to deal with anxiety because it takes your mind off the panic you feel and focuses your attention on something more productive. To keep yourself distracted, stay busy at dinner. Get involved in dish preparation, cleaning up, setting the table and any other odd jobs that need doing. Any host will be glad to have extra help, and you’ll be able to keep your mind away from your anxious thoughts.
Create a Safe Seating Environment
A big part of the day will be spent sitting at the dining table, so make sure you create a seating environment that feels comfortable and safe. Try to sit next to a close friend or relative who you’re used to eating with and make sure you have plenty of space to get up and down if you need fresh air. If you feel awkward leaving your seat while others are eating, make sure you have all your essentials under your seat in a small bag including medication and a stress ball or other distractor toy.
Find a Safe Retreat
Even when conversation is going well, being around so many people can still be overwhelming. When you arrive, ask your host if there’s anywhere you’ll be able to rest if you need some personal space during the meal. Most families have a spare bedroom where can sit, breathe deeply and meditate or distract yourself by responding to texts and emails on your phone. Avoid using the bathroom as a retreat if possible. It can be awkward if you’re occupying the restroom when others need to use it after the meal.
Confide in Your Loved Ones About Your Anxiety
If you trust the family and friends you’re dining with, then let them know ahead of time that you’ve been having anxiety troubles. Anxiety is a common problem, and those who love you will not judge you for it. Telling your fellow diners what to expect and how they can make you feel relaxed will alleviate the negative feeling that comes from keeping your illness a secret.
Above all, remember to enjoy the holiday. Thanksgiving is a day for quality time with those you care about, and anxiety won’t take that enjoyment away from you if you take the necessary precautions.