While it's common to hear about all of the stress of going home for the holidays, there's less discussion of the alternative — spending your holidays alone. Some people can't go home for Thanksgiving because it's too far, too expensive, doesn't work with their schedules, or because of issues within their families. And that's more the case than ever in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting wrenches in holiday plans everywhere. Spending Thanksgiving on your own does come with its own challenges — especially if it's your first time spending Thanksgiving away from home.
"Thanksgiving is both a holiday and a frame of mind," clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow Ph.D. tells Bustle. "The title alone says what it is supposed to be about — gratitude. If you are missing Thanksgiving this year either by choice or circumstance it is very important to not lose gratitude for yourself." And that means taking some time for self-care.
"Self-soothing and self-care are not selfish — they are what your body and soul need to thrive. Bottom line — do what you feel is right for you vs. what you think everyone else wants you to do." Whether you want to do something Thanksgiving-y all on your own or just want to retreat to your bubble and make a blanket fort for the weekend, how you choose to take care of yourself is totally up to you. If you're spending Thanksgiving away from home, here are some self-care tips to help make the day easier.
1. Schedule In Your Favorite Things
Thanksgiving may only be one day, but with cooking, traveling, and time off, it can take over the whole week. Prepare yourself by planning something you love to do or that makes you feel good, every day. Nourishing activities can help you feel more like yourself this week.
2. Reframe Your Thinking
Although it may be tough being away from your family, try to reframe the way you look at the time — and see it as a solo vacation. "If you find yourself alone, depressed, or stressed out during this time of the year, the first thing you can do is reframe your thinking," psychological performance coach Alok Trivedi, tells Bustle. "If you know you're going to be alone during the holidays, see it as a time for solitude, rest and relaxation, and just a break from everything and everyone." If you can think of it as an opportunity, you can approach the time in a way that will feel well-spent.
3. Treat Yourself
Thanksgiving is a holiday based around foods, so one great option is to get in all of your favorite things. "This could include a Thanksgiving dinner with and for yourself (pizza and a movie)," Klapow says. Really, it can be whatever you want. Maybe this means re-making your Mom's traditional Thanksgiving recipes, maybe it means four pizzas and three pints of ice cream. The choice is yours.
Sometimes, we can help ourselves by giving back. "Altruism, which has been researched by positive psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman, is a powerful anti-depressant," psychotherapist Kristina Zufall tells Bustle. There are a lot of ways you can be kind to people even if you're far away from home.
"It might involve being with others who are not family — going to a shelter to share love, going to an animal shelter to walk the dogs, visiting strangers at a nursing home, or just being grateful that you have yourself," Klapow says. Plus, because Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks and feeling gratitude, it's the perfect time to volunteer for those less fortunate. There are plenty of virtual volunteering options, too.
5. Marathon Watch '30 Rock'
...or any comedy. "Laughter boosts positive chemicals in your body," Susan Golicic Ph.D., certified relationship coach and co-founder of Uninhibited Wellness, tells Bustle. So if your idea of self-care is becoming one with your couch and watching your favorite show, then go for it.
6. Reach Out To Others
"Sometimes, we expect our loved ones and close friends to read our non-verbal clues as to what's going on with us," life coach Klay S. Williams tells Bustle. "I once had a close friend who spent the holidays by herself. When our friend circle asked her, 'Why didn't you tell us that you were going to be alone?' She responded with, 'Well, I kind of figured that you all would just know.' It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to share personal emotions, especially when we are the party in need."
If you're spending Thanksgiving alone, don't be afraid to reach out to other friends who may be doing the same thing — and, if you don't know anyone else on their own, you can still reach out for some support. Now is the time to break out your well-honed Zoom skills and schedule online gatherings whenever you need them.
7. Remember What The Day Is About
Even though you may not be celebrating with your family, you can still embrace the ethos of the day. "You don't have to be at someone's dinner to enjoy Thanksgiving," Klapow says. The ethos of the day can live on, wherever you are, just by taking a few moments to think about or even write down what you're thankful for.
Spending Thanksgiving away from home can be tricky, especially if it's the first year you've done it. Just make sure to take care of yourself by doing things that make you feel good — and never be afraid to reach out for help.
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