5 Tips to Reduce Thanksgiving Stress

Every year, at about this time, I can’t help but notice that the closer we get to Thanksgiving, the more uptight and anxious many people become. For some, it’s the stress of preparing the big turkey dinner, for others it’s the thought of traveling long distances during the heaviest travel period of the year, and then there’s the stress of the upcoming holiday season that kicks off moments after the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared.

Short of waiting out the holiday at a silent retreat, there are ways you can take on Thanksgiving without compromising your health or sanity. Here are a few tips to help you handle Thanksgiving stress and truly embrace the spirit of the day with an open heart, calmer mind.

Going Somewhere?

Flying to family gatherings, during the heavy traffic season, is for many people a challenge. If you’re one of the intrepid travelers, try the following to help take the edge off and keep stressors low:

  • Fly at non-peak hours to beat the rush and off-peak days, like the Tuesday before and Friday after Thanksgiving.
  • Travel with a light carry-on, so if you do get bumped or plans change, you won’t have to worry luggage loss.
  • Carry a few healthy snacks to support health while en route.
  • If flying makes you nervous, instead of booze or prescription pills, try Be Well’s Stress Support formula which contains nutrients and herbs to help you with stress and relax.

Re-imagine Your Experience

When you arrive at the airport (if not before), instead of bracing yourself for combat, change your mindset. Commit to practicing the concept of ubuntu, which is understanding, caring, respect and compassion for others. No matter how difficult the check-in or TSA agent may be, respond with compassion to keep tempers from rising and situations from escalating. Be prepared to go with the flow and if there are delays, try an online guided meditation to help you relax while you wait at the gate. If you need a laugh, as well as a reminder of how wondrous airplane travel actually is, take a look at comedian Louis CK’s wise take on travel (be advised though, the language is a bit salty).

He Started It!

If you’re visiting family, be they beloved or bewildering, keep visits short. The longer the stay, the more likely irritations, old wounds or ill-will can get stirred up. As on of my patients described his strategy for dealing with family at the holidays, “Always leave them wanting more.”

Dry Up Your Act

The less alcohol you drink over the holiday weekend, the better. A glass of wine or two is fine. Keep going though and you’re looking at a big dose of extra sugar and empty calories, as well as words you might regret and a headache in the morning. Hardly worth it, eh?  However, if you do plan to drink, don’t make it an all day affair and alternate alcoholic drinks with water throughout to help keep you hydrated (and sober). Also, hand the car keys to a designated driver to avoid becoming a Thanksgiving statistic.

Simplify The Process

When it comes to preparing the actual meal, as any host knows, organization is key – but so is starting early. To avoid a last minute scramble:

  • Set the table at your leisure a few days in advance and set out all the serving bowls and utensils.
  • Hit the supermarket late at night to avoid the pre-Thanksgiving crowds at checkout.
  • Check out the offerings at the farmers’ market for humanely-raised poultry, fresh produce and homemade pies (but go easy on the pies).
  • Get cooking now with make-ahead sides and freeze to cut down prep time on the big day.
  • If guests ask what they can bring, don’t be a martyr, assign them a dish that you might not otherwise have the time or the skills to make.

Finally, remember that everything does not have to be perfect – just good enough for all to enjoy together. Nobody will remember burnt Brussels sprouts, but they will remember a host melt-down, so in a word, relax.

And for some delicious recipes, check out The Lipman’s Thanksgiving Recipes by Janice Lipman.

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