Something for everyone at the table

For some people, the holiday season is the best time of the year. The food, family, gifts and celebrations are something they look forward to for months. But for others, the holidays can be stressful, loud, exhausting and anxiety-inducing. 

If the thought of Thanksgiving fills you with dread rather than joy, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways you can manage your stress, both in the run-up to the holiday and on the big day itself.

Feeling anxious about family dinners?

You’re not alone. Plenty of people feel panicky as the holiday season looms. Whether you don’t have a great relationship with your family, or you find it overwhelming to spend time with big groups of people, there are lots of reasons why you might be experiencing holiday anxiety. And the stress of holiday gift shopping (while trying to hit all your deadlines before you head off on vacation) can make symptoms of anxiety even worse.

Thanksgiving is a time when friends and family come together – which can be a wonderful thing. But it can also be stressful, with lots of expectations to have the best Thanksgiving ever, or to get along with relatives you don’t know (or don’t particularly like).

The thought of traveling home can also be anxiety-inducing – not to mention the actual logistics of dealing with busy airports, jam-packed roads and delays. If you live far away from your family, getting home for Thanksgiving can raise your heart rate and make your skin crawl.

It’s a real conundrum: you want to see your family, eat all the good food, and have some much-needed downtime to relax – but traveling, especially during busy periods, can be a real trigger for anxiety in some people. 

And for those who are hosting, the pressure to prepare the perfect meal and create a welcoming environment can be overwhelming.

For others, it can be the focus on food during the holidays that’s stressful. Whether you feel guilty about all the snacking, or you have a history of disordered eating and feel uncomfortable eating in front of others, Thanksgiving can bring up all sorts of emotions around food.

You see, everyone has their own anxieties and stresses, especially around coming together over the holiday season. But there’s room for everyone at the table – and you just need to do what you have to to get through the busy holiday season.

How to get through Thanksgiving dinner, no matter who’s at the table

So, how can you turn Thanksgiving from something you want to avoid to an event you embrace – or at least manage to get through unscathed?

Plan ahead

If you’re worried about traveling over the holiday season, try to reduce the anxiety by planning ahead. Can you travel a day earlier to avoid the travel rush? Or can you break up your journey into two parts? Taking a night’s stopover in between can give you a chance to relax, meaning you’ll turn up for Thanksgiving in a better frame of mind.

Stay in control when it comes to food

If you have dietary requirements, let your host know well in advance so they can plan and prepare – or offer to bring a dish that suits your needs. If you’re worried about food in general over the holiday season, remember that you’re in control of your choices, and you can decide what you eat, and how much you want to eat.

Take a deep breath

Your uncle is running his mouth, spouting political opinions that no one really wanted to hear. Your niece is having a tantrum. Your grandpa has the TV turned up to 100. It can all get overwhelming – but taking a moment to pause, breathe and center yourself can work wonders. Try box breathing:

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, focusing on filling your lungs with air
  • Let your diaphragm expand
  • Count to 4 as you inhale
  • Once you’ve fully inhaled, hold your breath for a count of 4 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four
  • Once you’ve fully exhaled, hold your breath for a count of four 
  • Repeat 4-5 times

De-escalate potential conflicts

If someone’s asked a question you’re not comfortable with, or made a controversial statement, try not to bite back immediately. Instead, take a deep breath from your belly and consider whether you want to get drawn into an argument, or if you can reply calmly and diplomatically.

Prepare conversation topics

Sometimes, it’s easier to deflect conversation – or avoid difficult subjects in the first place – by having some conversation topics prepared. Having some neutral, positive conversation topics in mind can steer discussions away from potentially contentious issues. 

You could prepare in advance by getting every guest to think of a couple of conversation starters (best book you’ve read this year, new year’s resolutions, ‘would you rather’ questions) which can be pulled from a jar when the going gets tough.

Avoid hot topics

If experience tells you that certain topics lead to disagreements or tension in your family, consider having some no-go topics which you all agree to avoid discussing them during Thanksgiving dinner to maintain a peaceful atmosphere.

Take breaks

It’s okay to take some time out for yourself during the day if it all gets a bit much. Take a walk around the block, take ten minutes out to listen to a podcast, or meditate. Having a quick break to relax and recharge will put you in a better mood and frame of mind to continue the day.

Go easy on alcohol

Alcohol and anxiety never mix well. Skipping the booze, or avoiding overindulgence, will help you to feel calmer – and it can also help you to better avoid conflicts.

Plan in advance

If you’re the host, take as much on-the-day stress off your plate as possible. Plan a menu with some food items that can be prepared the day before, ask guests to bring a potluck dish, assign family members different tasks on the day (setting the table, clearing the plates or loading the dishwasher) – whatever you can do to remove stress and anxiety, do it.

Most older children won’t respond well to being told exactly when to do their homework, so it’s best to sit down with them and work out a study schedule together that fits around their hobbies and family commitments.

Create an anxiety toolbox

As well as deep breathing, it can be useful to have some tools and techniques in your back pocket to deal with the holiday overwhelm. A pair of earplugs can work wonders for taking the edge off, while a fidget spinner can give you something else to focus on.

Practice gratitude

Remember that, even in challenging situations, there are usually moments of joy, laughter, connection and togetherness. Sharing what you’re thankful for is a great way to create a more positive atmosphere – and after all, isn’t that the whole point of Thanksgiving?

Earplugs for everyone at the table

No matter our differences, there’s room for everyone at the table this holiday – and we all need to do whatever it takes to get through the busy season. Luckily, there’s a Loop for everyone (which makes it easy when it comes to your holiday shopping, too!).

You could also try out different time management techniques, such as Pomodoro. This is when you work for 25 minutes at a time, followed by a 5 minute break. Your child can then use that 5 minutes to do whatever they want – from checking TikTok to grabbing a snack – as long as they get back to work after the 5 minute break is up. 

Working in this way helps kids to keep their focus, manage their time, and break big tasks down into smaller ones so that no task feels too overwhelming.

For the one who needs five minutes’ peace: Loop Quiet

You’ll feel more relaxed and ready to tackle whatever the day throws at you when you’re better rested. That’s where Loop Quiet comes in, with up to 26 dB (SNR) of noise reduction so you can get some serious shut-eye, undisturbed. And if you need to take a step away from it all during the day, pop in your Loop Quiets and meditate or simply close your eyes and let it all melt away.

For the one who needs to take the edge off: Loop Engage

No matter how much you love your family, it can all get a bit overwhelming around the dinner table. People chewing. Your aunt’s piercing laugh. Your cousin who just won’t stop talking. Loop Engage earplugs help to reduce the overwhelm by reducing the noise – but they won’t cut you off. They’re specifically designed with conversation in mind, so you can chat without that echoey, head-underwater feeling that you get with some earplugs.

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For the one who’s continuing the party: Loop Experience

Thanksgiving isn’t just about family – it’s also about coming together with friends to do the things we love. So for those around the table who are going on to celebrate in the bar or club, Loop Experience will help to protect their ears, with up to 18 decibels (SNR) of noise reduction – without affecting the sound quality.

For the one who does it all: Loop Switch

From travel chaos to socializing without anxiety to live music concerts, Loop Switch are the do-it-all earplugs for do-it-all people. They offer the convenience of 3 earplugs in 1, controlled by a single switch for the power to shift between Engage, Experience and Quiet modes. Perfect for taking you right through the holiday season, from Thanksgiving dinner to new year celebrations.

For the littlest member of the clan: Loop Engage Kids

Holidays can be overwhelming for both big kids and small ones. Loop Engage Kids offer the same technology as Loop Engage, but they’re colorful, comfy and kid-approved. Designed for ages 6-12, they’ll help them thrive in social situations, control noise anxiety, and find their focus at home, at school and beyond.

Do Thanksgiving your way

Thanksgiving should be a time of celebration and gratitude – but it’s fair to say that, for many of us, it comes with its challenges. But with a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can reduce the overwhelm and navigate your way through the day successfully.

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