Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays – it’s all about food, family and being thankful – but that doesn’t make it a walk in the park. If Thanksgiving is nothing but good times for you,
you should probably get back to drinking your carrot smoothie while doing yoga and celebrating the fact that your Christmas shopping is already done that’s wonderful. For the rest of us, Thanksgiving brings with it no small amount of stress, from burnt turkeys to cringeworthy dinner conversation. If you’re feeling a little apprehensive about the holiday weekend, here are some tips for surviving Thanksgiving:
Remember it’s not a vacation. If this holiday is stressful for you, it doesn’t help to view it as a break. Instead, see it for what it really is: a major event, often involving travel, lots of interaction, food preparation and work (and I’m not even talking about actual work, though some of us will try to cram that in, too). Allow for a time buffer between work and the holiday (both before and after). That way you don’t end up feeling like you’ve been working nonstop for two weeks straight.
Plan out your self care. Get a massage or find another way to relax before you start packing or getting the house ready. Bring some healthy snacks along if you’re concerned about snacking on junk food all day. Drink lots of water when you can. If you’re an introvert (like me), squeeze in some alone time whenever you can to boost your energy (five minutes is totally better than nothing).
Have an exit strategy. If you have certain people, topics or events at Thanksgiving that always push your buttons (maybe Grandma is super racist, for example), plan your escape route in advance. That could be going to the bathroom, helping in the kitchen or volunteering to pick up a few more groceries at an opportune time. If you’re trapped in a pre-dinner conversation with that crazy Uncle whose name you can’t remember (but whose face haunts you in your sleep) you could always fake a phone call (“that you really need to take”) with an app like this.
Be a leader, chicken$#!%. So often, we let the holidays stress us out. We let others dictate the conversation or we let them decide what happens next. Take charge instead. Decide to relax and have fun. Choose a conversation topic that will be fun for everyone (like Obamacare. Or something completely different, like the Affordable Care Act. Just kidding.). Offer an alternative activity if you don’t feel like doing something again this year. You might find that others are relieved that you stepped in when they were afraid to speak up.
Listen to your damn body. Most of us don’t realize we’re stressed out until we’re exhausted and completely bent out of shape, lying drunk in the snow screaming at passersby. At that point, it’s too late (to save your dignity, at least). This year, pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, sneak in a catnap (again, five minutes is totally better than nothing). Those little things make a big difference and you’ll find yourself better equipped to handle anything that comes your way (except for Aunt Ruth’s mincemeat pie. Nothing can prepare you for that).
Be kind. You’re probably not the only one at the dinner table who’s stressed. Ask yourself, “How can I make this holiday or this moment more enjoyable or comfortable for that person?” I always feel better when I stop worrying about myself and focus on being kind to someone else.
Drink a lot. Hey, if all else fails, try more alcohol.
It won’t be perfect. You tell brides all day (in one way or another) that their wedding day will be amazing, but it won’t be perfect. Are your own expectations about Thanksgiving higher than Miley Cyrus at a, well, anywhere? Instead of trying to get everything just right, remember that the best memories come from what usually seems horrifying at the time. Remember that year Dad burned the turkey to a crisp and the house smelled so bad you had to eat dinner at the only open restaurant in town? Sure, the food sucked and the service was worse. But it didn’t matter, because the experience drew you all together and it gives you something to laugh hard about every time you get together. And, to me, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about.
I hope you have the best Thanksgiving this year. No matter how ugly it’s been, we can always live by the mantra, “Who knows? Maybe this year will be different.” And maybe it will.
Have your own pro tip for making it through the holidays? Please, share with us in the comments!