Keys to a Happier Thanksgiving!

The Thanksgiving Holiday is a time to take a break from the stress of college classes and reconnect with family and friends. In a “normal” year this can feel overwhelming. This year is more challenging with Covid-19 concerns and precautions. The CDC is even recommending not gathering or traveling for the holiday. This may create additional stress, sadness and anxiety because holiday plans look different this year.

We tend to have high expectations of the ideal family Thanksgiving and may find ourselves disappointed by reality. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and sadness. Identify what is important to you. A great question to ask yourself is how do I use my strengths this holiday season?

If you are going to visit family this Thanksgiving, let the little (or not so little) things go for the day. Family can be irritating, demanding and of course, imperfect. You can make a list before thanksgiving of ways your family may trigger negative thinking and plan to not overreact. You can choose to politely disengage from tense conversations, be helpful, playful and use your sense of humor. If needed, take a break and go for a walk. Create a gratitude list which helps to improve mood and positive coping. Research shows a link between gratitude, happiness and overall psychological well-being (Davis, 2016).

Thanksgiving may highlight feelings of loneliness and isolation due to the absence of family or social connections. Acknowledge and accept any feeling you have as part of you in this moment in time and look to the future for new feelings in new moments in time. Friends and family may be physically distanced in a separate household. Encourage yourself to be open about creative ways to connect with others. Participate in a zoom gathering where members can talk, laugh, eat a meal together, reminisce, play games and practice gratitude virtually.

Some students are not able to travel home and may be by themselves. Reach out to others virtually. Have an onscreen Thanksgiving with friends and family. Consider volunteering in some capacity. Connect with others by playing virtual boardgames. Donate to a food bank or practice random acts of kindness towards other in small but meaningful ways. Value yourself. Identify and practice self-care skills such as journal writing, go for a nature walk, listen to soothing music, meditate, watch your favorite holiday movies, have a positive outlook on tomorrow. Count down the days to the end of the semester and congratulate yourself for all your hard work and moving closer to your academic goals. Forgive yourself for the things that did not go as planned this year and focus on the things you have control of.

If, despite your best efforts, you still find yourself feeing, sad, anxious, depressed, irritable or hopeless please seek professional help.

Santa Fe College Counseling Center counselors are committed to providing a safe space for you to seek help, gain perspective and clarity, and overcome obstacles. Contact us at 395-5508 or email us at Video and phone sessions are available during this time of physical distancing to ensure access and safety.

  1. Davis, Don E.; Choe, Elise; Meyers, Joel; Wade, Nathaniel; Varjas, Kristen; Gifford, Allison; Quinn, Amy; Hook, Joshua N.; Van Tongeren, Daryl R.; Griffin, Brandon J.; Worthington, Everett L. Jr.(2016). Thankful for the little things: A meta-analysis of gratitude interventions. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 63(1), Jan, 2016 pp. 20-31. Publisher: American Psychological Association; [Journal Article]
  2. Mayo clinic (2020, November 11). Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. Retrieved from: