As the most stressful time of the semester approaches, many wait anxiously for the much needed time off from school that comes with Thanksgiving break. Yet for many others, Thanksgiving break also serves as a time of a whole new source of stress; food, family gatherings and home lives are not always happy and welcoming. This year, try to approach this five-day break with a positive mindset.
Holidays are usually dubbed the happiest time of the year, even though many people actually spend their time wondering how they are going to survive the holiday season instead of enjoying it. To keep your mood positive, take time to be grateful, remember to go easy on yourself, and attempt to maintain a positive attitude.
In a body-conscious world, it can be easy to be consumed by the idea of counting calories and watching what you eat. While it is always important to be aware of your health and take care of yourself, make sure you allow yourself to indulge in an extra slice of pie or another serving of those hearty mashed potatoes if you so desire. If you enter a food-heavy family gathering with an overly critical mindset, you may find yourself falling into an increasingly stressed headspace as the plates of food are passed continuously in front of you. Remember that a day of indulgence can also be a positive one.
The whole foundation of the November holiday is the practice of giving thanks. While at a superficial level this statement may seem cheesy, gratitude has been scientifically proven to increase levels of happiness and lower rates of depression. It is too easy in life to focus on the negative side of things, like rude family members, ostracising and dividing political discussions and extra homework assignments for classes. Practicing gratitude is a way to fight the “negative triad” outlook, a symptom of depression that creates negatives views about the self, the world, and the future. To combat this, practice writing in a journal every morning or evening and list a few things you are grateful for.
Going home for the holidays with a few days off from school is also the perfect opportunity to slow down and take care of yourself. Every day, take the time to think of one small action you can do to help yourself relax and regain a positive mindset. This can be as simple as meeting up with an old friend, making yourself a cup of hot chocolate or indulging in a few episodes of your favorite television show. It can be easy to neglect self-care when your school, work, and social life grow more demanding. Small acts of kindness to yourself will actually help you foster the mindset needed to meet all of life’s demands.
This tip also applies to Thanksgiving day itself. Every individual has a unique family composed of different sizes, generations and ideologies, which can be overwhelming. Answering the same questions over and over about your studies, your friends and your future can cause anxiety and an overall negative mood. Remember that it is fully acceptable and even encouraged to take a few minutes when you need it to yourself. When you start to feel overwhelmed, give yourself a physical restart by removing yourself and recentering in the quiet of your own company.
For many people, Thanksgiving means required time with family members related by blood. While it is important to spend time and be grateful for the family you do have, surrounding yourself with your found family, comprised of caring friends, co-workers or teammates, is just as essential. Found families are important for college-aged students as they provide a safe space for new ideas, identities and support. If you haven’t already, consider organizing a “Friendsgiving,” where you can gather to celebrate and be thankful for your found family just as much as your blood family.
At this time of year, it can be easy to let yourself become overwhelmed with deadlines and responsibilities. This Thanksgiving break can serve as a much needed mental, physical and emotional break, as long as you remember to take care of yourself, maintain a positive attitude and truly take the time to rest in order to come back to school refreshed and ready to finish the semester strong.