Dear Counselor, November 16

Mary Pellitteri

With Thanksgiving and winter break right around the corner, can you give some tips on how to make the time at home as stress-free as possible?

Holidays can be stressful under the best of circumstances. For some with a history of troubled relationships with family, it can be an anxiety-filled nightmare. Hopefully, this break you can navigate in a way that will prove to be relaxing and enjoyable— or at least less stressful than you are anticipating.

Communication and planning are key. Ask your family what their expectations are and be as upfront with them as possible. Clearly state your plans as soon as you know them. If you have hometown friends you want to see, a partner you plan on spending time with or schoolwork you have to do, let your family know. Make time for family, even if it’s not as much time as they would like. When you are together, give them your attention.

For example: “Mom, I will be going to my boyfriend’s house Thanksgiving night, but I will spend the day with our family,” or “I have plans to go out with my friends from high school on Wednesday night, so I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be around, but I would love to have dinner together on Tuesday.”

Toxic relationships fueled by addiction, abuse and overall dysfunction can be what you are facing. Keeping your visit short, if possible, can be helpful. Have an “escape plan” that includes people you can spend time with. A family member outside the home, a friend or maybe a place you can go to like the library or Starbucks, or even take the dog for a walk. If you are able, consider returning to school early, or keep a gratitude list, and read it regularly.

It’s important to exercise, eat right and get enough rest. Limit substance use as this can fuel anxiety and unpleasant interactions. Remember that the only person you can change is you, but if you choose to make changes to how you approach the situation, you may be surprised at the difference it can make for you.

Enjoy the holidays and free time you do have. Nurture the healthy relationships in your life that you may not be able to enjoy during the school year.

“Dear Counselor” is a column written by Mary Pellitteri, a member of Quinnipiac University’s Counseling Services, to address mental health and wellness issues that she deems prominent in the community. To submit questions to Dear Counselor, email [email protected].

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.