Just like any holiday or family event, Thanksgiving can be stressful - even when you’re not hosting. Whether you find yourself cooking dinner for more people than you have chairs, or visiting relatives who might not be your favorites, try these simple tips to help you enjoy the holiday.
If you’re hosting, play to your strengths
Most of us aren’t professional chefs and don’t find ourselves cooking for lots of people very often - so don’t worry if you feel nervous beforehand.
1. If you’re someone who likes to socialize, prepare as much as you can ahead of time so that you can take breaks on the day to speak to your guests.
When you’re talking to your friends and family, remind yourself how much you enjoy their company and take time to consciously think about how happy it makes you. Making time for things you enjoy and consciously thinking about how much you enjoy them is a common technique suggested by therapists and counselors to help overcome negative thoughts in times of stress.
2. If you’re someone who feels overwhelmed by lots of things going on at the once, tell your guests that the kitchen is your space until the dinner is served.
The chances are they will be grateful for your cooking and respect your wishes - especially if you make them clear in advance. Setting up snacks and drinks in another room can keep guests away while you concentrate. Asking a guest to bring a desert means that after you’ve served the main course you can stay at the table with your loved ones.
3. If you’re a natural manager, delegate tasks so that others can help.
Guests often like to feel useful so clear instructions will lighten your load and get everything done more quickly. Plus, acts of kindness make people feel good so really you’re improving their day too!
4. If you fall behind, or you’ve forgotten something, ask for help.
Sharing your stress can be really helpful. Don’t suffer in silence - you deserve a great day too.
Being a guest can be stressful too
Whether you’re responsible for cooking or not, spending all day with friends and family can be stressful - especially if it’s something you don’t do often or if emotions are running high.
1. If your relatives are getting to you, find an empty room (or bathroom) and try taking some deep, slow breaths.
When you breathe deeply, you’re mimicking the way you feel just before you fall asleep or when you first wake up - two of the moments when the body is most relaxed. Your brain responds to these physiological signals and your heart rate and blood pressure will begin to fall. It doesn’t matter that you’re not in bed, the feedback loop between your brain and body is an innate biological link and it will help you to calm down. We’ve shared some tips on this previously and you can find them here.
2. If coffee makes you feel jittery, make an effort to avoid it.
After dinner coffee can be great, but for some people it can heighten any stress they are already feeling. If you know that you can feel on edge after caffeine then ask for a herbal tea or just some water instead. For more information on how coffee affects the body, read our post on it here.
3. Even if the day didn’t go as planned, try to focus on the positives.
Something as simple as writing down three good things that have happened to you that day has been shown to have a significant impact on happiness. In a study of nearly 600 people conducted by researchers at three US universities, reflecting on positive experiences boosted happiness both in the short term and over the next six months.
Whether you’re hosting this year or not, good luck - and Happy Thanksgiving!