THE BLOG
11/18/2013 06:52 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

7 Ways to Ruin Everyone's Thanksgiving -- Including Your Own

It's that time of the year again. The time when family dramas and conflicts that have been kept at bay will resurface and issues get stirred up. The time when we have to see people that we wouldn't choose to see the other 364 days of the year. Like clockwork, in November, I get an influx of patients seeing me for stress directly related to the holiday. I've identified 7 things that people do that ensure they'll be stressed out. Here are the ways to deceive yourself and ruin Thanksgiving:

  • Buy into the belief you have a "perfect family" or that the holiday will be "perfect." Doing so only sets you up for disappointment as most families are not perfect and most holiday gatherings usually run into some sort of hiccup. By adjusting your expectations you'll less likely be disappointed and stressed should something not go according to plan and you'll also take the pressure off yourself.
  • Bring up and participate in conversations that historically have proven to be sensitive. Doing so is asking for trouble. Avoid the hot button topics such Obama's health care program, a divorce in the family, or other emotionally-laden topics. There are plenty of other subjects that are much safer. Go equipped with safe topics and positive speaking points.
    • Feel like you have to win the argument. You might do so, but at what cost? Keep in mind the possible ramifications of pushing your points. Ask yourself, is it worth it to win the battle but lose the war? Simply acknowledge the differences and move on.

  • Feel intimidated by know-it-all relatives. Every family has one...or more. Dealing with them is simple. Ignore them. Doing so eliminates the audience they usually crave. If they don't get the reinforcement, then they'll eventually get tired of hearing themselves talk and will stop.
  • Feel obligated to participate in a conversation with pushy and intrusive relatives who think they know best. At the core, relatives usually want what is best for you. They want to see you get married, have kids, and have a good career - but they probably don't know exactly what you deal with on a daily basis so it's easy for them to dish out advice or tell you what to do. To avoid getting upset by this, simply acknowledge their concern thank them, and move on.
  • Drink and eat a lot. Drinking in excess will lower your inhibitions which could potentially fuel arguments, diminish your mood, and make you feel lousy. Only drink what you know you can handle, not what you think you can handle.
  • Deviate from your normal exercise routine. For many people exercise is the best form of dealing with stress and maintaining good mental health. Make sure you include it during your holiday. That may mean excusing yourself to go for a run or to complete an exercise routine. Do it even if people look at you funny. Better that than to feel miserable.
For more tips on living a healthy life and keeping your cool during the holidays check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.