Anxiety and Thanksgiving Dinner

Health Writer

As the holidays come upon us, the stress level increases. For those people with anxiety, the stress of Thanksgiving dinner can increase symptoms of anxiety and bring on anxiety or panic attacks. Whether you are cooking a dinner and responsible for all the preparations or simply attending a dinner and must deal with the stress of a family get-together, holidays can be difficult.

To help you get through Thanksgiving, here are some tips:

Prepare Ahead of Time

If you are cooking dinner, plan ahead. Decide what parts of the meal you are cooking and what items you are requesting your guests bring. Send a note, or an email, before the dinner to let everyone know what he or she should bring with them. The more items you are able to pass along to other guests, the less you need to worry about. Don't worry about asking people, providing guests with the ability to bring a dish to the dinner helps them feel more involved in Thanksgiving.

For additional side dishes, such as cole slaw, purchase the item rather than taking the time to make it from scratch. Use paper napkins, throw away tins for holding food and other convenience items to make preparation and clean up easier.

Many supermarkets and restaurants offer a complete Thanksgiving dinner, already cooked. This can allow you to concentrate on entertaining relatives and friends rather than the stress of cooking.

Request a relative come over the day before to help set up dishes, tables or other decorative items to save from having to complete all of the preparation on Thanksgiving Day.

Take Time to Relax

If you are preparing and hosting Thanksgiving dinner, take some time before relatives arrive to relax. Plan fifteen minutes to meditate, listen to music or just sit down undisturbed to regenerate from preparations. This can help you to enjoy your guests more than if you are stressed.

If you are attending a Thanksgiving dinner and feel anxiety over family events or because of the number of people that may be attending, take time before the event to meditate or sit quietly while deep breathing. Taking a few minutes to relax your body and your mind can help you get through the dinner.

During the Thanksgiving event, take a few minutes to walk outside and get away from the crowd. Even just a few minutes can help you to calm down.

Talk with Your Therapist

If you are currently in behavioral or cognitive behavioral therapy, talk with your therapist a few weeks before the holiday rush begins. Let them know what types of things increase your anxiety so that you can work on these areas together.

If you do not currently have a therapist but look forward to the holidays with dread, this may be a time you want to consider beginning therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be very effective in treating anxiety and therapy may help you to get through family functions.

Talk with Your Doctor

If family functions bring on anxiety or panic attacks, talk with your doctor about short acting anxiety medication to help you through the anxious moments these events will bring. If you currently take medication but feel it is not properly working, this is the time to talk with your doctor about adjusting doses or changing medication.

Limit the Time Spent with Relatives that Increase Stress

For some people, getting together with certain family members can increase stress levels. If this is the case, limit the amount of time you spend with these relatives. Make arrangements and plans to spend time with people that make you feel good rather than those that make your feel anxious. Limit the time you spend with certain relatives to only a few hours rather than the entire day.

Practice Stress Relieving Exercise

Be prepared for stress. Practice stress-reducing exercises, such as deep breathing and meditation. These techniques can be used throughout the day to help ward off anxiety or panic attacks. During a family event, you may need to remove yourself from the situation and find a quiet place to be by yourself for a few minutes. Taking some time to practice these exercises can help you during these times.