5 Simple Ways To Ease Your “Family Thanksgiving Dinner” Stress (That Don’t Involve Drinking Or Drugs!)

Don’t end up stress drunk at 3PM.

Listen, I wish I could tell you all how much I love the Holidays and how they’re filled with loving memories of family and sparkling lights and delicious food. But then I’d be lying. And I know I’m not alone in this. The Holidays are stressful AF, especially when spent with your biological (and not chosen) family. For a lot of people, this time of year is filled with stress, yelling, arguments about which family to spend the day with, fights about who is cooking what and of course the kitchen domination struggle.

In fact, just two years ago I was being ghosted by someone I really liked while my parents were in town (and staying at my very tiny Brooklyn apartment with me) and I was too stressed to function around them. My parents wouldn’t stop complaining about how loud my street was and how there was nowhere for them to go hiking and that my kitchen was too small for a proper Thanksgiving meal. And I couldn’t explain why I was so f*cking moody to them, because they don’t fully understand my ~gay lifestyle~ so I suffered in silence, while constantly checking Instagram for updates from my ghoster.

And so of course, I was guzzling a bottle of wine by myself at 11AM. Yup. I was drowning my sorrows and stress in booze. Not healthy, I know. And not something I usually do. But you know—the Holidays and being ghosted all at once?! It was just too much for me to handle. Sober, that is.

 

This year, I am not spending the Holidays with my parents (phew). I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love them and all but they stress me TF out at this time of year. But I know not all of us are this lucky and family obligations are so real. Never fret, my queer babes. I don’t want you drowning your sorrows until you’re wasted at 3PM and unable to stay awake for Thanksgiving dinner.

So, here are my 5 self-care tactics for spending the Holidays with family when you can’t run away from your stress. Trust me with this one, I learned the hard way.

1. Step outside when it all feels too much. 

This is so important. You have to know when you’ve reached your limits. Is it the fifth time that Uncle John has said something homophobic and tried to pass it off as a joke? Time to go for a walk.

It’s always okay to need to step away. Go for a walk down the street. Take your family dog with you. Or take a slice of pumpkin pie and hide in your childhood bedroom for a half hour pouring over old journals about your fifth-grade crush. Whatever it is that you need, know that there is plenty of family to go around and no one will notice if you step away for a quick break. Just don’t go guzzling from the liquor cabinet on your break!

2. Keep some “Rescue Remedy” on hand.

Which brings me to point number 2. I seriously swear my life by this stuff. Bach’s Rescue Remedy has saved me from many a panic attacks. It works faster than booze and actually calms you down instead of sending you into a worse state of manic. It’s all natural made from flower essence and you just drop a little bit in the back of your throat and in five minutes, you’ll be ready to take on whatever your crazy family throws your way.

 

3. Rest up beforehand! 

I know it’s super tempting to go out on the biggest party night of the year (aka Thanksgiving Eve) with all your lezzie friends. But trust me, if the Holidays already stress you out—being hungover is only going to make it worse. (I know you’re all rolling your eyes at me right now. It’s okay, I can take it.)

I highly recommend creating a super relaxing environment the night before you have to head into family time. For me, that looks like a giant glass of red wine, a lavender bubble bath and watching a silly rom-com. For you, relaxation might look different. But figure out what makes you your most ~zen self~ and do that in preparation.

4. Have an emergency plan with your bestie.

Tag team this shit, babe. If you and one of your friends (or even a group of you) are going home for the Holidays—have an emergency code for stress venting. You can have a group chat with live updates. Or you can have a tag team plan set in place so that if either of you calls, you know it’s a venting emergency and you pick it. That way, it gives you both a break from your fam for at least 10 minutes and you get to hear a friendly voice. You know, teamwork makes dreamwork.

 

5. Remember that it’s only one day (or weekend) and you can survive anything for one day (or weekend). 

If you start to feel your stress boil over the top: take a deep breath, go to the bathroom, splash some water on your face, and remind yourself that it’s only one day (or weekend). You will be back to your amazing gay city life before you know it! You can get through this, babe. You’ve been through much worse (ahem—ghosting). Your family is annoying but at the end of the day, you only really see them a couple times a year.

If you’re like me (the black sheep of the family) then you can use this time to really throw your extended family for a loop. You can challenge their politics, talk about how gay you are, and bring up how Thanksgiving is a fake holiday anyways. Sorry, I’m a feminist killjoy. Whatever your tactic is, just know that you can power through. Tomorrow you’ll be brunching with your babes and sharing all the awful things Aunt Sherry said when she was drunk on two glasses of Chardonnay.