Happy almost-Thanksgiving! If you are like me, I'm sure that you cannot believe the holidays are already upon us. What happened to Fall? Although the song says "Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays," despite what we see in Hallmark Channel's Five Night Thanksgiving Movie Event, the fact is that most of us experience a sense of dread as we envision our upcoming holiday gatherings. Feelings of resistance, anxiety, and resignation start to bubble up as we anticipate the drama and dis-ease that will undoubtedly accompany the candied yams and pumpkin pie. As we contemplate the upcoming holiday, our minds naturally drift back to Thanksgivings past and we automatically become stressed out thinking about our family dynamic and the scenarios that consistently cause trauma and trepidation before we get to and/or around the Thanksgiving table. Any hope of warm and fuzzy feelings turn cold and cautious as we contemplate situations like:
- How do I once again try to explain to my family why I have to bring my own food since I eat vegan or gluten-free?
- What can I do to appease my parents and in-laws, who are all divorced but expect us to show up and make their Thanksgiving meal the most significant one?
- How should I handle it this year when, at the last minute, my sister-in-law once again decides to invite four more people to dinner?
- What do I do when Uncle Bob brings up politics and the holiday goes from being about pilgrims, Native Americans, and gratitude to Democrats vs. Republicans and hate and hurling insults?
- How do I not get pissed off at my family when they stay glued to the couch and watching TV as I do all of the work in the kitchen?
Your first instinct might be to cancel Thanksgiving or hide because you just want to avoid the inevitable or you are afraid you will do what you have done in the past, remaining silent or passively standing by and pretending things are "fine" as you face dive into the mashed potatoes, drown your sorrows in a bottle of wine, and unconsciously choose self-sabotage over self-love. But checking or numbing out is not the best option. Neither is doing what you have done in the past -- avoidance, settling for crumbs, enduring the explosions or inappropriate actions and behaviors of others, or allowing yourself to self-implode and then berating and beating yourself up for it later.
It is time to turn the tables on turkey day trauma and trepidation. It is time to declare a no-tolerance policy when it comes to putting ourselves in unhealthy scenarios in which we do unto others better than we do unto ourselves as we compromise our wants, needs, desires, and truth. It is time to initiate some new holiday traditions!
In my book The Integrity Advantage, one of my favorite sections is about creating an "Integrity Protection Program," a set of structures and practices that aid us in protecting our highest. To help navigate the holiday pitfalls, it is crucial that we be proactive about formulating a holiday Integrity Protection Plan and put structures in place to safeguard our sanity. We must commit to establishing a clear set of ground rules, some for us to adhere to and others that we convey to our loved ones. Even though it would be nice to think that our family members and close friends know our needs, assuming often gets us in trouble and causes misunderstandings. As we take on being proactive about turning the tables on turkey day trauma and trepidation, we must also commit to communicating our requests and boundaries to others in a clear and timely manner. It is okay to
- Tell your sister-in law that the cut-off day for any additional guest is the Monday before Thanksgiving.
- Give each family member a list of tasks you need them to perform and add in a time frame for when they need to be done by.
- Call your hostess and ask what they will be serving to see if it meets your dietary needs and then check if you can bring some "sugar-free" or gluten-free options.
- Remind your in-laws that you will be eating dinner at your mother's house and will be at their house in the afternoon to say hello.
- Declare the Thanksgiving table a "no-politics" zone.
Structures and boundaries are acts of self-care and demonstrations of self-love. And one of the "ahas" I have come to realize is that just like we need to establish them to safeguard us from the actions and habits of others, we often need structures and boundaries to safeguard ourselves from our own weaknesses and pitfalls. I have found that for myself, especially when it comes to the holidays,
It is better to know myself, not to test myself!
If I know that leftovers will wreak havoc with my food plan, then instead of hoping that this year I will be able to resist the leftover chestnut stuffing or deep-dish apple pie, I eliminate the temptation and allow myself one "leftover day" before I give the excess food away.
If year after year, I get angry with my children because they are late getting dressed and out the door for Thanksgiving dinner, then to defuse the situation before it happens, I let them know in advance what time we are leaving and invite anyone who is not sure what they are wearing to model it the day before so there is no last-minute drama.
If I always feel overwhelmed by my holiday to-do list, then starting two weeks before, I start peppering into my schedule the things I can do ahead of time so I don't feel rushed and exhausted the last few days.
Although I might like to think that this year I will handle things differently, chances are I might not. That is why I love this concept of knowing myself instead of testing or tempting myself. It supports me in embracing my humanity and creating structures that are accepting of what is and planning accordingly.
Changing your holiday karma is possible. But we need to be as mindful about creating our holiday Integrity Protection Program as we are our Thanksgiving menu. My hope is that, to whatever extent you need to, you can turn the tables on turkey day trauma and trepidation and have the yummiest of holidays.
Transformational Action Steps
- Start formulating your holiday Integrity Protection Program.
- What boundaries do you need to establish with others?
- What structures do you need to create that will support you in successfully navigating your family's issues and dealing with their dynamics?
- If you take on the concept of knowing yourself and not testing yourself, what structures can you put in place to safeguard yourself from your own weaknesses and pitfalls?
- Make a conscious choice to have a wonderful Thanksgiving and walk through the holiday with eyes of love and gratitude.
- Get The Integrity Advantage to learn even more about setting up your own Integrity Protection Program and the benefits of living an integrity-guided life.
- Join The Integrity Movement and stay tuned for news about our first-ever INTEGRI-THON when we will be cleaning up and clearing out anything that no longer serves us and takes up space so we can make room for that which does.