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5 Tips for Handling Thanksgiving When You Have OCD

Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And then comes Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s … it can be a lot of pressure with expectations and togetherness.

Can you tell I’m not a “holiday person?” I’m not, and if you aren’t either, that’s okay. For real. It’s okay.

I generally dread the time from Thanksgiving to New Years. Now that 2 of my 3 kids are in college, I like knowing they’ll be home because of the holiday breaks. I miss them and look forward to spending time with them.

Other than that, however, I struggle. I struggle with the expectations, my perception that everyone is having more fun and the energy required to do big get-togethers. I suspect my fellow introverts can relate.

I also remember how hard these 6 weeks were when I was first divorced.

But all is not lost. While so much is out of our control, how we react is within our control. Remaining flexible is key. And while these tips are directed at those with OCD, truly, they’re helpful for all of us.

5 Tips for Handling Thanksgiving When You Have OCD

1. Accept how you’re feeling without judgement.

Give yourself permission to feel how you feel. Easier said than done. It’s really the practice of acceptance without judgment that we want to focus on.

2. Practice the “while.”

You can feel X WHILE you do Y. Just because we feel a certain way doesn’t mean we avoid life. We learn to feel anxious while we spend time with family. Feelings can be contrary and simultaneous (in fact, they often are).

3. Remember, it’s about acting with uncertainty.

Most people can relate to feeling unsettled about Covid and how to both celebrate while mitigating risks.

OCD demands 100% certainty that no one will get sick, and that’s just not reality.

Follow whatever guidelines your family decides and then focus on what’s important: being together, sharing traditions, making new traditions.

4. Keep your fitness game strong.

By that, I mean both the mental and physical fitness. Go on offense and try to be as proactive as possible with your response. Know what your triggers may be and how you want to respond.

it’s also not a time to skip your meditation and mindfulness practice or recovery routine. Continue to listen to recovery podcasts, work on your exposure logs, whatever you and your therapist normally work on. If being with others is an exposure, think about how you can practice response prevention.

5. Allow time to rest and recover.

This doesn’t mean skipping #4, but it does mean we’ll want to carve out time to recharge our batteries. You don’t have to be going and doing at a breakneck pace. It’s more than okay to make the time to read, watch tv, go for a run, play with your animals — it’s essential.

One last piece of guidance: watch your stories. When we get hooked on (otherwise known as fused to) an expectation, thought, memory or feeling, we become inflexible in our response. The holidays go much more smoothly when we can think, act and feel with agility.