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I love Thanksgiving. I love the idea of everyone, at the same time of year, making an effort to show gratitude for the things that they have. I love the tradition.
I love the way the leaves have always begun to change, that the autumn season feels somehow like a new beginning.
It all makes me happy.
In high school, Thanksgiving meant the start of holiday festivities and that Christmas break was almost here. I loved seeing my family, all of us crammed in my aunt’s house around the dining room table (and extra fold-out table), my sister and I joking with our cousins about who gets what color plate and poking fun at our parents.
There was a palpable warmth on Thanksgiving, meaning both the temperature inside the house (most likely due to so much cooking) and the overall feeling that never failed to spread from my heart throughout my body.
But it was also difficult for a lot of reasons.
For those affected by eating disorders, trying to cope with a season whose focus is largely centred around eating is understandably complicated.
I remember panicking each year as I tried to navigate what to put on or keep off my plate. I remember fighting with myself as we all sat down to dinner.
Thanksgiving can be difficult for people in other ways, too. For example, if your relationship with family is strained, the holidays can be understandably frustrating and upsetting. Not to mention that many people throughout the country struggle to get enough food to eat, and in 2020, the number of people experiencing this could be 50 million.
It’s okay if you’re struggling this Thanksgiving.
It’s okay if you don’t find beauty in the falling leaves or find comfort in the turkey dinner or enjoy time spent with family and friends.
But if you want to explore the reasons for your struggling, or possibly come to helpful conclusions, here are some journal prompts to use before Thanksgiving.
4 Journal Prompts for Thanksgiving
1. If you could spend the day doing anything, how would you spend it?
My perfect Thanksgiving simply involves waking up without an alarm next to my boyfriend and then watching the parade with a cup of coffee while I probably get some baking done. It also involves going for a walk with one of my best friends before we see our families like we always do.
I know I can make all of that happen. When I get stressed out thinking about Thanksgiving, I always come back to the knowledge that I can make the holiday a good one.
Thinking about that is a good reminder; we tend to forget that we have the ability to put things we like into our lives, day by day, even when we’re struggling.
Now that you have your ideal day planned out, try to make it match up with reality!
2. What is one difficult truth you’ve been avoiding or hiding from?
I know it might seem overwhelming to think about something serious on top of everything else you have to think about right now, but I truly believe the benefits here outweigh the negatives. If you write down what you’re avoiding and it’s still too much, rip the pages out of your journal and move on. Still, you’d most likely have benefitted from the exercise.
If you’re actively struggling with an eating disorder, you might journal about using behaviors and why you might be doing it.
Is it the result of intense emotions? Are you comparing yourself to someone else? Are you unsure of how to cope?
I personally have been avoiding thinking about my career choices because I find it scary to be so uncertain. Journaling about it was as cathartic as expected, especially because I finally released all that worry.
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3. What do you honestly need right now, and how can you meet those needs?
What we need isn’t always obvious, even to ourselves. But it’s worth the effort to think about it for a minute. What are the things that would make you feel better at this moment? What about this season?
What do you truly need? A long shower, or a bath with candles and a bath bomb? A hug and some sympathy or connection? Some alone time, away from a relentlessly chaotic world? Nourishing foods? A more structured treatment plan or an extra appointment with your therapist?
There are no right or wrong answers, only your truth.
Just keep in mind that self-care is not always aesthetically pleasing or trendy; sometimes self-love is doing the hard stuff, and meeting your needs sometimes requires taking a risk or even asking for help.
4. Write a letter to someone you’re thankful for
You don’t have to show the other person, but thinking about why I’m grateful for another person makes me happy. Gratitude typically does that, moving people “to experience more positive emotions, to thoroughly enjoy the good experiences” which makes them happier.
Plus, it can be easier to focus on gratitude when I’m thinking about someone specific. When I’m depressed, I cannot always grab onto positives to be grateful for. I can’t see that the sun is shining, or how I made a green light. But I often can see that when I talk to this person, her ideas expand my mind, and when I hug that person, I feel safe and good.
Maybe I’m just a people-person. If you’re not, you can swap this prompt out for simply reflecting on the good things, as vague or specific as you have to be.
Journaling has always helped me process issues and make me feel less alone in my thoughts. I do know, however, that it isn’t a magic fix. So if you’re having a difficult time, remember that in the end, Thanksgiving is just another day. Don’t overthink it.
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