The holiday season is typically from November 1st until after New Year’s Day. During this time, stores begin unveiling seasonal decorations, reminders of the festivities to come. Thanksgiving is usually the first big holiday where family and friends come from out of town to celebrate. Sometimes the holidays can be stressful, especially if you’re hosting, have to travel, or are visiting multiple families. The goal for this year is to have a well rounded Thanksgiving, starting off the holidays on a positive note. Here are some tips to help you keep your sanity this year.
Hosting can be a double whammy of stress if you’re cooking and have house guests. There can be a lot of pressure to be the “perfect” host. After a glass of wine and an hour of Pinterest, you set unrealistic expectations for your Thanksgiving meal. Pictures don’t show the hours of work, or team of people helping and staging the scene. The holidays are about being thankful for what you have and spending time with loved ones, especially those who live farther away. If you worry to much about perfection, you may end up being too stressed to enjoy the holiday and the nice meal you’ve prepared.
- Game plan: Map out your menu and decorations a few weeks ahead of time. Once you have it planned out, you can break it down into smaller goals on a timeline. You can even buy non-perishables foods weeks in advance, and keep them in the pantry.
- Make a list: You will feel productive and a little less stressed every time you get to cross a task off.
- Decorate days before: Set the table and focus on decorating days before if possible. It will be one less thing to focus on the day-of.
- Meal prep: All of the dishes do not need to be prepared on the same day. Casseroles and other sides can be made a day or two in advance and reheated the day of. Pies, and dough, can be frozen ahead of time, then thawed and baked on Thanksgiving.
- Ask for help: Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving spread can be intimidating and a lot of work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Guests can bring side dishes, desserts, or a bottle of wine. It will cut down on the work load and the costs. You could even make the meal a potluck, and have everyone bring a dish. Just because you’re hosting, doesn’t mean you have to do all of the cooking.
- Carving the perfect turkey: Carving a turkey can be intimidating, so check out this easy to follow video for some pointers on how make this step of the day simple.
- Use name cards to strategically place guests: Some people mesh better than others, you can avoid putting any conflicting family members or friends next to each other. It will keep the conversation and overall mood flowing better.
- Uncrowd your kitchen: Set up smaller prep stations out of the kitchen for those who really want to help. They can add ice to the glasses and make any drinks out of the way.
- Set out snacks: Some guests will always be early, and may arrive hungry. Simple appetizers like fruit or hummus can be set out ahead of time, so no guests come into the kitchen looking for a pre-meal snack.
- Kiddie distraction: Set up activities for the kids outside or away from the kitchen. They can fly kites, play with a football, or unleash their inner Picasso with Thanksgiving themed coloring pages.
- Leftover station: set out plastic bags and containers to fill with leftovers for guests. You can buy paper bags and write their names with a sharpie to avoid any confusion.
- Enjoy friends and family: the most important part of Thanksgiving is celebrating what you have. Try to plan time for enjoying your guests and getting out of “host mode” for a little bit. This will help make the holidays more enjoyable.
Being a holiday guest can be just as crazy and stressful as hosting. Travelling can be difficult during Thanksgiving, as the airports, roads, and public transportation systems are packed. You want to enjoy all of your friends and family, but it can be hard to make time for everyone. You may have more than one Thanksgiving to go to, and the day can leave you feeling bloated and rushed. The holiday season can also be the start of unhealthy eating habits. After overindulging at Thanksgiving, healthy eating and exercise may be put on hold until New Years, when most of us set goals to be healthier.
- Give yourself extra time: Overestimate how long travelling will take and give time for “uh oh’s.” Traffic jams or public transportation delays are more likely during the holidays. It can be awkward showing up late for a Thanksgiving dinner.
- Store-bought sides: Many grocery stores offer pre-made sides and desserts that you can bring to your Thanksgiving. If you’re short on time, or not a cook, don’t be afraid to bring a store-bought dish. They often look pretty and taste amazing!
- Avoid overeating: Eat a healthy snack an hour before dinner. If you are starving before you meal, you will be more likely to overfill your plate without thinking. If you have a snack, you can be more level headed and plan out your meal.
- Stay active: Jumpstart your metabolism with activity Thanksgiving morning. Go for a run, take the dog for a walk, or play a game of football. Exercise will help you burn off the upcoming feast.
- Eat breakfast: Many people skip breakfast to “make room” for Thanksgiving meals. This leads to overeating and crankiness by the time you eat. Eat a filling, high protein breakfast Thanksgiving morning.
- Choose moderation: You can still indulge during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, just try to keep it in moderation. Restricting yourself from desserts or your favorite dish can lead to more stress and overeating. You can have a little bit of everything, just make sure you have a reasonable portion.
- Fitted clothing: Instead of the usual loose and stretchy clothing, in anticipation of the Turkey Day food-baby, wear clothing that fits nicely and you’ll be less likely to overeat.
- Awkward topics: There is always the uncomfortable moment where a relative wants to talk politics or your single status. Compliments and questions are a great way to curve the conversation away from unwanted topics. Give a vague or noncommittal answer, and then suddenly compliment or ask a question to distract your friend or family member.
- Help out the host: Clean up is a part of Thanksgiving. No one really enjoys doing the dishes, but it’s unfair to leave it all to the host.
- Have fun: Thanksgiving is a time of celebration and thanks. Use this holiday to enjoy friends and family, especially for those coming from out of town.
A well-rounded Thanksgiving helps you keep sane and enjoy the holiday. Holidays can be hectic and stressful; we sometimes forget to enjoy the people we are spending it with. Try not to get caught up in the “perfect” Thanksgiving. Everyone’s holidays are a little crazy and there will be little blips that turn into funny stories later. Whether you’re a host or a guest, you deserve to have a nice Thanksgiving with the least stress possible. Try to relax this Thanksgiving, and take this time to enjoy friends, family, and delicious food.