Thanksgiving, Family Gatherings and Anxiety Attacks

Health Writer

Thanksgiving is a time to get together with family. This can be either a blessing or a curse for people with anxiety. For some, family is a source of safety, security and support. For others, however, family gatherings are a source of stress. Families may not be understanding and may be judgmental. Family may make you feel more overwhelmed, and anxiety can increase just thinking about attending Thanksgiving dinner. The following are some tips and suggestions to help you make it through a day and season of family get-togethers. ·For some, distance requires you to spend not just the day, but several days or the weekend with your family. If the thought of spending an afternoon with your family does not fill you with dread, but the idea of spending days in the same household heightens your anxiety, consider staying in a hotel rather than at your family's home. This can provide you a place to escape to and a place to be by yourself. It also puts you in control of how much time you spend at family gatherings. ·If you are attending Thanksgiving dinner at a relative's home and you are worried about anxiety or panic attacks occurring, take the time when you arrive to find a quiet place, should you need to escape for a few minutes. This might be a spare bedroom, the basement, the garage or outside. Taking a few minutes when you arrive to locate a peaceful spot can make you feel better and make you feel more in control. When, and if, you should feel an anxiety attack beginning, you will be prepared with somewhere to sit quietly, rather than increasing your anxiety because you don't know where to go. ·If your relatives do not understand, make you feel uncomfortable or criticize you, walk away. Some may believe walking away shows weakness, however, it takes inner strength to not feed into negativity and to simply walk away and find someone else, more supportive to engage in conversation with. ·If you normally attend family functions alone, consider inviting a friend along for support. Knowing you have someone there that supports and understands your anxiety can help you feel more comfortable and may help to alleviate some of the stress you feel. ·Volunteer to help in the kitchen or some other job to keep you busy. Keeping yourself occupied can help to stave off the feelings of anxiety. Simple activities such as setting the table or helping to make last minute preparations can help to relax you and allows you to think of something else besides your feelings of anxiety. ·Set boundaries with your family. Let your family know in advance what you find to be acceptable and what you find uncomfortable. If some family members "lovingly tease" you about your anxiety and this bothers you, let them know and ask them to stop. If the comments continue, walk away. Above all, remember family gatherings are supposed to be enjoyable and provide you with a sense of support and love. Not all families, however, offer this environment. If being with your family gives you a sense of dread and panic, consider whether you want to make other plans for Thanksgiving. It may be better to get together with the family members you enjoy in smaller settings. For example, can you invite your cousin over to dinner at your home rather than spending time with other relatives that increase your anxiety? Smaller gatherings can be easier to handle and offer better opportunities to spend time with those people that support you.