How to Navigate Thanksgiving After a Chaotic Year

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2020 has been an eventful year for the entire world. With a pandemic that has upended lives, an election that showed the true colors of many people, and events that sparked social justice across the nation, conversations between family and even friends have become rather complicated. 

During the holidays it can be challenging to navigate the talk about politics, and this year is no different. With turkey day approaching rapidly, the thought of discussing or even confronting family members on differing views or outdated ways of thinking can seem daunting.

In the past, many news outlets and self-help guides suggested avoiding talking about current events altogether. However, in our current climate, it may be impossible to follow that advice. Anthony L Fisher from Business Insider says that “No one-size-fits-all advice will apply to every family” when it comes to dinner-time topics.

Dan Harris from ABC News recommended meditation before the big meal, as well as saying, “go in with the goal to simply try to understand where people are coming from.” While this can be a good tactic for some subjects, for others this might not work and may start or intensify more arguments than finish them.

Lisa Lerer, from The New York Times, offers a more avoidant approach, merely saying “focus on the food” and lay down boundaries about what topics are off-limits. Lerer even suggests other topics to talk, like classes you’re taking, stuff you’ve watched on Netflix recently, or even Baby Yoda in the new Mandalorian season. It can be essential to be mindful when a conversation is going towards a subject you are not comfortable with and to offer to change the subject or remind your guests of what topics are off-limits.

Another critical part of this Thanksgiving holiday, as well as the upcoming winter holidays in general, is being mindful and aware that we are still in the middle of a pandemic.

Whether it’s a Zoom dinner with relatives from across the country or safely visiting with family, current events are bound to come up. First things first, it’s essential to be safe, avoid large gatherings, and always wear your mask as per the CDC guidelines

Matt Villano from CNN Health, explained that it’s crucial to focus on your safety and the safety of others. “It’s alright to say, ‘I prefer not to get together with everyone’ or ‘I’m sorry but we’re not going to be able to attend this year’…it’s perfectly acceptable to say you’re focusing on your own safety and would rather stay home,” Villano stated.

Whether you want to discuss current events with your relatives or would rather eat biscuits and gravy alone in your room, it’s always important to prioritize your mental health above all else. There is still the option to step away, take a deep breath, and be with yourself for a moment. It can be tough when you have to share a meal with someone who may hold different beliefs than yours, including ones that can be harmful or hurtful but know this: you still have your own beliefs and ideals, and no one can take them from you.

Plus, you can always say your internet is terrible and log off the Zoom call. Works like a charm.

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