Around this time of year, I start thinking about potatoes.

Specifically, Franconia potatoes.

When I was a kid, My dad made these amazingly perfect oven fried potatoes every year for Thanksgiving. I loved them so much that I remember getting secretly mad at my cousins (teenage boys) one year for eating so many. I wanted leftovers!!

In my family as in many others, Thanksgiving dinner means spending time with people you love and eating lots of food that makes you happy.

But unfortunately, food is not always the only thing on the menu at Thanksgiving.

We often enter Thanksgiving in a state of emotional paradox— knowing we should be grateful for the good things in our life but also stressed and frustrated by old family conflicts, heath or job stresses, or a general dissatisfaction with where we are in life.

This emotional paradox creates internal turmoil and anxiety that often leads us to put undue pressure on ourselves and others, leading to conflict and feelings of inadequacy.

Its easy to understand why we might start fantasizing about getting away from the family we are supposed to enjoy being with and spending the next holiday sipping fruity drinks in the Bahamas by ourselves.

But I believe there is one thing you can bring to dinner this year that can help you enjoy your holiday without having to run away to the Bahamas.

That one thing is your own personal protective bubble.

(Before you start worrying that I have gone a little overboard worrying about Ebola threats, let me explain what the bubble is.)

A bubble is an invisible, imaginary protective layer that is used to shield ourselves from any comments, behaviors or expectations that are directed toward us, but aren’t in our own best interest.

Here are a few ways a bubble can help us:

1. Shields us from any comments or opinions from others that we find hurtful.   

At the holidays, we are often around people who have different views and opinions than we do. As such, these people will sometimes make comments that may not be intended to be hurtful but that hit a nerve. The bubble protects us by allowing us to decide what “gets in” and what doesn’t, kind of like privacy filters on Facebook allow us to decided what pictures and comments are allowed to get posted on our wall.

Sometimes I like to think of my bubble as my very own storm trooper suit 🙂

2. Gives us space to decide how we want to react in a stressful circumstance.

Trying to create the perfect holiday meal while keeping up with all of our normal daily obligations can be both stressful and tiring. Also, spending time with relatives who have known us for our whole lives can often trigger old patterns of behavior that can lead to conflict.

Wearing the bubble reminds me that I have permission to pause, and choose how I respond in a circumstance that I don’t like, rather than mindlessly reacting and saying something that escalates the tension.

3. Protects us from overeating and over-drinking.

OK, this isn’t 100% true. The bubble doesn’t act to magically put a barrier over your mouth when you’ve consumed the appropriate number of calories for dinner. (If this were true, I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t make it past the appetizers at my house.)

However, I believe that being conscious about what’s going on around you, and not allowing yourself to take in hurtful comments– whether intentional or unintentional– allows you to stay present to what’s happening in the current moment. When you are able to stay present, you aren’t using food or drink to stuff down unpleasant emotions or comfort yourself.

I believe wearing the bubble can sometimes be the difference between enjoying a nice meal with friends and relatives and spending weeks rehashing the tone and intention of hurtful comments that are stuck in our brains.

I HIGHLY recommend bringing your bubble with you to Thanksgiving this year.

Here’s how to put it on:

1. Sit quietly by yourself.

This could be in your car before you walk in to someone’s house, in your bathroom before or when your guests get there….really anywhere you can be alone for just a moment. The big thing is to take 3-5 minutes totally by yourself to focus on what you are doing.

2. Mentally put on your bubble, head to toe, and list out the features of your bubble.

Remind yourself of how it causes negative comments to bounce off of you like tennis balls on backboard. Or how it allows you time to stand still for a moment when you are caught off guard by someone’s behavior so you can take time to decide how you want to act, rather than react, to the situation.

3. Pick one article of clothing or accessory that you have on that will remind you of the bubble if and when times get tough.

For me, I like to use a favorite bracelet of mine. I wear this bracelet a lot, but in particular during times when I want to feel quietly powerful. I have nicknamed this my “Wonder Woman bracelet” because Wonder Woman wears bracelets that can deflect bullets and other weapons with the flick of her wrist. All I need to do with mine is to look down and remember my bubble…no flick of the wrist needed 🙂

Putting on your bubble for this holiday season will help make this time more peaceful and enjoyable by shielding you from negative comments, giving you space to process your own reactions, and helping you avoid the temptation to stuff your emotions by overeating or over-drinking.

If you know someone who could benefit from a bubble this holiday season, would you please share this with them?