By Dr. Michael Oberschneider, Ashburn Psychological & Psychiatric Services
The global pandemic has made the last year and a half tough for many; the pandemic has forced numerous adjustments and compromises on us. The death toll in the US alone is tragically closing in on 740,000 deaths.
Yes, we have a vaccine, and positive new cases across the nation (and the world) are trending down. Still, many of the stressors of COVID-19 remain at a time when there is so much negativity and disagreement in the world, and within our community, I invite us to focus on the good this Thanksgiving. I offer the following seven tips to show gratitude and give thanks this Thanksgiving 2021.
With COVID-19, some of us feel safer traveling than others, and while some of us are vaccinated, many still are not. These sorts of issues and others create challenges for families who would like to celebrate Thanksgiving together. But even if your holiday plans to get together are challenging this year, I recommend striving to be as present as you can be. If you can’t be with your more prominent family due to travel and distance, perhaps you can spend time with nearby family and friends. Even if you’re alone on Thanksgiving, you can use technology to your advantage by connecting via FaceTime or Zoom with your loved ones.
Technology is wonderful, but try not to let it interfere with your family time. It’s one thing to watch a football game or a movie with others, but it’s entirely another thing to be distracted by technology during a gathering. Of course, you can always check CNN, Fox News, Facebook, or other social media sites later, so put down your phone or device and enjoy the occasion with the ones you’re with.
Is it better to be right or to get along? It’s easy to get upset by the many topics and stories in the news these days, but how productive or enjoyable is it to bring those things up with others this Thanksgiving? Even if you’re with folks who agree with you, you still risk getting worked up when you talk about emotionally charged topics during a festive gathering. There’s an old saying that politics, money, and religion are the three main topics you want to avoid in most social groups. I agree that they’re probably the topics you want to avoid this Thanksgiving.
It’s easy to overindulge in food and drink during Thanksgiving, but striving for moderation is always good. So, instead of going back for that second or third plate or having that extra glass of wine, try to be mindful of your intake.
Sitting around can be a big part of Thanksgiving, and while relaxing is essential, so is being active. Movement is always great for the body and mind, so I recommend you try to get out this Thanksgiving. Going for a walk or a hike, playing a game of flag football with friends and family, or signing up for a Thanksgiving 5K or Turkey Trot, are just a few ways to be active or to recover after a heavy meal.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to serve your community, and there are several ways to give back in our area — donating a turkey or to a local food bank, visiting the elderly, working at a soup kitchen, delivering for Meals on Wheels, etc., are just a few possibilities to consider. In addition to doing some good in the world for those less fortunate than you or those in need, research on volunteering has also shown that people are happier after volunteering. With depression and anxiety rates skyrocketing during COVID-19, the need to give is especially great this Thanksgiving, and you will probably feel better about yourself when you do it.
Research studies have repeatedly shown the power of positive thinking. People who think positively during adversity have consistently reported experiencing lower rates of stress/anxiety, depression, and health struggles and higher rates of happiness and wellness. We’ve all been impacted by COVID-19 in different ways, and the pandemic has forced many of us to take inventory of how we live. Do you have balance when it comes to your work life and personal life? Do you think about a career change? How healthy are your important relationships, and what changes would you like to make? Thinking positively is important when it comes to self-reflection and making changes that are good for you.