A College Student's Guide To Navigating Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is an iconic holiday which, like many holidays, can end with most of us feeling pumped full of stress, carbs and emotion. This season can also drain your bank account like no other. So in the holiday spirit, I’m going to share my survival tips for all your Thanksgiving worries.

First, with the previous years’ controversies surrounding Donald Trump, as well as the current Republican propaganda swirling around the election, I can foresee many families getting into political discussions this Thanksgiving. I know, at least with my family, we are super passionate no matter the opinion, so with certain members of my family leaning right, and others like me aligning more left, things can get interesting. 

Therefore, my ultimate advice for anyone whose family is like mine is to abide by the old phrase “no discussing politics or religion at the dinner table.” However, this does not include if your racist, homophobic or otherwise conservative family members start dishing slurs and hate-speech at any point, in which case pop off on them. My plan going into this year is to educate and debate with those who need it, but ultimately to be the bigger person and wait for them to start something.

Another major aspect of any holiday is the food. Being a college student has drastically changed my diet and eating habits. So, if your grandparents are planning on an early-bird dinner schedule, maybe set aside some leftovers for later. Personally, big meals like this aren’t my thing and I often practice intuitive eating, which is essentially listening to your body on a functional level about your cravings flavor-wise and portion-wise. I’ve been exploring and struggling with my eating for years, so I’m not looking forward to the dreaded interrogations and prodding questions about why I haven’t finished my plate, or why I’m a pickier eater. 

If you can relate, I recommend pulling aside a family member before-hand and asking for their support in those confrontations or directly pulling aside the family member who usually targets you and have a heart to heart. Mine was my mom, and as much as I love and respect her, I needed her to see me as an adult with my own needs and limits. She did make me promise to at least run my meal by her, so she knows I’m eating, but that’s what moms are for! Ultimately my tip for this struggle is, remember that whatever your eating habits, schedule and preferences are, you are killing it and to continue being healthy.

Giving thanks table set up Photo by Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplash

The final major component of any holiday is family, specifically going home for the holidays. This year may be a little different because of COVID-19, which has forced many universities to close or limit in-person opportunities for their students. For example, Florida State is closing its campus after the break, so that students can go home for break, without worrying about coming back and possibly spreading the virus on campus. Even without this year’s added stressors, heading home for the holidays is major. 

My advice for this would be to be mindful while traveling, bring work or books to distract yourself and to attempt peaceful co-existence with all your family members. Personally, I plan on meditating and journaling throughout the holidays and especially at home, just to calm my nerves and keep myself grounded amidst all the holiday flurry. Here is a great video walking you through a short but sweet meditation.

Ultimately the goal of Thanksgiving, as controversial and emotionally taxing it may be, is to give thanks and be grateful for all the positive things and people in your life, so Happy Thanksgiving!

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