November is a time of brightly colored leaves, starchy Thanksgiving side dishes, and saying so long to your partner. Yep, that’s right. The month marks the beginning of breakup season, nicknamed the “turkey dump.” That’s because the split usually happens around T-day, as you realize you don’t want your partner to meet your family (or vice versa). It could also be the result of holiday-induced stress.
No matter the reason, the season is upon us, and if you do find yourself on the receiving end of a turkey dump, there are things you can do to dust yourself off and enjoy the holidays solo. We asked Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love ($16; amazon.com), for her best turkey dump survival tips.
Ask yourself what will bring you joy
The holidays are billed as the most magical time of the year, but if you’re going through a breakup, you may not be feeling much magic. Instead of dwelling on what happened, ask yourself what you could do to put the sparkle back in the season. It won’t necessarily be what everyone else is doing or what you usually do, Lombardo says. For example, watching holiday movies and baking cookies might make you want to gag, but getting a mani-pedi and going for coffee with your best friend could be exactly what you need. Basically, your happiness doesn’t have to come from holiday activities.
Be prepared for questions from your family
You know it’s going to happen: grandma is going to ask, ‘Are you sure it’s over? He was such a nice guy.’ And though it’s the last thing you want to talk about, you’ll have to find a way not to be rude—even if it feels like they’re being insensitive by bringing it up. “They’re not trying to add salt to the wound,” Lombardo says. “They only want to show that they care about you.”
Having an answer prepared for when the questions come can be a lifesaver. Make it something short and sweet like, ‘We just weren’t getting along, and we decided it was time to move on.’ If that doesn’t work, deflect by saying, ‘I don’t really want to talk about this right now, but what I really want to do is enjoy our time together,’ Lombardo suggests. People love to talk about themselves, so ask grandma about her book club instead. Refocusing the conversation is a great way to turn things around.
Return the gift you bought for your ex ASAP
So you already gift-wrapped that wallet you know he really wanted. Now what? Keep it for yourself? Gift it to someone else? Wrong. Return that thing immediately. It might sound like tough love, but you need to rip the Band-Aid and get little reminders like that out of your life. “The reason we have so much stress in our lives is because we’re upset about the way that things are,” Lombardo says. Meaning we can hold onto things that make us feel down and sad…or choose to let it go and move on.
It’s easy to fall into the black hole of ‘I’m never going to find anyone ever again’ thoughts. But nothing productive comes out of catastrophizing, Lombardo says. Thoughts like that are a product of emotion, not logic. When you find yourself spiraling into a hole of irrational self-doubts, take a step back and do something productive, like catching up with an old friend who’s back in town for the holiday or writing down your thoughts in a journal.
Try not to drown your sorrows in junk food and wine
We know how it goes…one, two, three glasses of vino down and, uh oh, you’re drunk dialing your ex. Sure it’s tempting to say yes every time your wineaholic aunt asks if you want a refill, but you don’t want to go there. The only thing worse than waking up with a hangover is waking up with the embarrassment of not knowing what you said on a drunken voicemail.
You also don’t want to turn to food as a form of therapy, Lombardo says. Of course, it’s totally fine to indulge during the holidays. While piling on the pie might make you feel better in the short-term, eventually, all of the extra sugar will only leave you feeling lazy and mess with your emotions. Turn to healthier mood boosters like exercise for a long-term solution.
Spend time with people who really do love you
Use the holidays as an excuse to hang out with the loved ones you didn’t see as much before the turkey dump. Dating someone is time consuming, and now you can dedicate more energy to some long-overdue bonding with your parents or siblings, Lombardo says. There’s also no need to stress about divvying up holiday time with another extended family now. As you realized when you spent Thanksgiving at his house last year, there’s nothing quite like the comfort of being with your own people and embracing family traditions.
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