Supporting Loved Ones during Thanksgiving: 7 Powerful Ways to Help

Supporting Loved Ones during Thanksgiving
Picture of Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Dr. Joshua Yager is an Atlanta native, board-certified family practice physician who is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of his community.

Table of Contents

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and togetherness, but for individuals facing substance abuse and mental health challenges, it can be a period of heightened stress and triggers. As a friend or family member, your support is essential during this holiday season. In this blog, we will explore seven powerful ways to help your loved ones navigate Thanksgiving while prioritizing their well-being.

Supporting Loved Ones during Thanksgiving

Educate Yourself

Before offering support, it’s crucial to educate yourself about your loved one’s specific challenges. Understanding their condition is the first step to providing effective assistance. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Research Thoroughly: Dive into reliable sources of information related to your loved one’s condition. Look for reputable websites, books, or articles that provide insights into substance abuse and mental health issues.
  • Consult Professionals: Reach out to healthcare professionals, therapists, or counselors who specialize in the particular condition your loved one is facing. They can provide valuable insights and resources.
  • Attend Support Groups: Consider attending support groups or therapy sessions designed for family members of individuals with similar issues. These groups offer a safe space to ask questions and share experiences.
  • Develop Empathy: Try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. Understand the emotional and physical challenges they face daily, which can help you approach them with empathy and compassion.

Open and Honest Communication

Fostering open and honest communication is essential to providing support during Thanksgiving. Create a safe and non-judgmental space where your loved ones can express their feelings and concerns:

  • Active Listening: Practice active listening by giving your full attention when they speak. Avoid interrupting and offer validation for their feelings and experiences.
  • Create a Judgment-Free Zone: Ensure your loved ones feel safe sharing their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment. Remind them that you are there to support them, not to criticize them.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage deeper conversations by asking open-ended questions that require more than just a yes or no answer. For example, instead of “Are you okay?” try “How have you been feeling lately?”
  • Respect Boundaries: Recognize that they may not want to share everything. Respect their boundaries and only inquire about what they are comfortable discussing.

Planning Ahead

Help your loved ones create a Thanksgiving plan that addresses potential triggers and stressors, ensuring a smoother holiday:

  • Identify Triggers: Together, identify specific situations, places, or people that might trigger cravings or emotional distress during Thanksgiving.
  • Develop Coping Strategies: Collaborate on coping strategies that can be employed when these triggers arise. These may include mindfulness techniques, deep breathing exercises, or having a trusted friend to call for support.
  • Alternative Activities: Suggest alternative activities or traditions that don’t involve substances. Encourage them to explore new hobbies or revisit old interests to divert their focus.
  • Emergency Contacts: Ensure they have a list of emergency contacts, including their healthcare providers, sponsors, or support group members, readily available.

Supporting Loved Ones during Thanksgiving

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Balancing your support with maintaining healthy boundaries is essential for both you and your loved ones:

  • Communicate Boundaries Clearly: Clearly communicate your boundaries and what you can and cannot do to support them. Be honest about your capacity to assist.
  • Seek Support for Yourself: Consider joining a support group for family members or seeking therapy for yourself. Taking care of your mental health is crucial.
  • Resist Enabling Behaviors: Be vigilant about avoiding enabling behaviors that may inadvertently support your loved one’s addiction. This can be challenging but is crucial for their long-term recovery.
  • Consistency is Key: Be consistent with your boundaries. Your loved one may test them, but maintaining consistency is vital for their understanding.

Attending Supportive Events

Look for Thanksgiving gatherings and events that offer a substance-free and supportive environment for your loved ones:

  • Recovery-Oriented Meetings: Encourage attendance at recovery-oriented meetings or support group gatherings during the holiday season. These can provide a sense of belonging and understanding.
  • Organize Family-Friendly Activities: Consider organizing family-friendly activities that focus on fun and bonding without the use of substances. Board games, nature hikes, or volunteering together can be enjoyable alternatives.
  • Online Resources: Explore online resources and virtual events if physical gatherings are not feasible. Many support groups now offer online meetings and discussions.

Practicing Self-Care

Encourage your family and friends to prioritize self-care during Thanksgiving to manage stress, anxiety, and triggers effectively:

  • Establish a Daily Routine: Help them create a daily routine that includes self-care activities like exercise, meditation, or journaling.
  • Emphasize Healthy Eating: Promote a balanced diet, as nutrition plays a crucial role in mental and emotional well-being.
  • Prioritize Adequate Rest: Ensure they get enough sleep, as fatigue can exacerbate mental health symptoms.
  • Limit Stressors: Identify and minimize unnecessary stressors in their life. Delegate tasks when possible to reduce holiday-related pressures.

Celebrating Progress

Acknowledging and celebrating your loved ones’ achievements, no matter how small, can provide encouragement and motivation:

  • Offer Positive Reinforcement: Provide positive reinforcement for their efforts, such as offering a heartfelt compliment or a small, meaningful gift.
  • Mark Milestones: If they reach a significant milestone in their recovery, consider organizing a special celebration to mark the occasion. Acknowledging their progress can boost their confidence.
  • Encourage Self-Reflection: Encourage them to reflect on their progress and set new goals for the future. Self-reflection is a valuable tool for personal growth and recovery.

Supporting Loved Ones during Thanksgiving

Supporting family and friends during Thanksgiving while they face substance abuse and mental health challenges requires patience, understanding, and empathy. By following these seven powerful strategies, you can make a significant difference in their lives and help them navigate this season with strength and hope.

If you’d like to explore more resources and support for substance abuse and mental health issues, please visit our website at We offer a wealth of information, articles, and additional guidance to assist you and your loved ones on this journey.

For those located in Tennessee, we encourage you to check out our sister company, Iris Wellness Group, which specializes in providing localized support and resources tailored to the unique needs of the Tennessee community. You can find them at Together, we are here to support you and your loved ones on the path to recovery and well-being.

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