“Help: My family stresses me out big time during the holidays”

Dear Sarah,

I’m absolutely dreading going home for Thanksgiving. I’m a college freshman and this will be my first weekend back. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but they also drive me crazy! By the end of last summer things got kind of intense with my parents, and I’ve been loving my independence.

Everybody will be scrutinizing me. My family is really conventional and I know they will be freaked by the fact I have a nose ring and tattoo (I can hear it now, “Well, isn’t THAT interesting….”). My grandmother will be totally confused and maybe offended by the fact I won’t be eating her turkey—but I’m a vegetarian! I’m feeling tense and sweaty just thinking about it!!

How do I survive??

—Anxiety Attack in Baltimore

Dear Anxiety,

If you are feeling wound up about attending a major family gathering, welcome to the human race.

One of my besties started using a phrase this summer that basically applies to almost every challenging-but-not-dangerous situation: “Don’t trip.” Its basically become our mantra. You will survive Thanksgiving with the fam. It’s only a few days and then you can go back do school and do your thing. What you need is a few strategies to make it the best it can be for you and for them.

1. Roll up your sleeves. Help set the table, cook, clean—whatever.  Pitching in will keep you occupied and out of the crossfire of snarky comments and also gain you enough points with grandma that she may not harp on the vegetarian thing.

2. Seek refuge in children and pets. They aren’t judge-y and accept you as exactly who you are. Rex needs a walk? On it. Violet would like a story? Done.

3. Pause. If someone says or does something that triggers you, try to apply the 10 second rule before responding. It’s good practice for life in general.

4. Get some fresh air and exercise. When things get too intense, stick in your ear buds and go for a walk. Taking a little time out by yourself is key to feeling whole and maintaining a decent attitude.

5. It may sound corny, but remember your blessings. Consciously taking stock of all the good fortune and love you have in your life can help put everything into perspective.

Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about, anyway?

Love, Sarah

Have an issue that could use a mom’s-eye-view? Our advice column features a real live mother of three who is ready to discuss any of your burning questions judgment—and baggage—free. Email [email protected] with the subject line “Dear Mom.” Please include your first name or nickname and where you are from. Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

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