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5 Tips to Turn That Thanksgiving Stress into Holiday Bliss

Bowl of Thanksgiving stuffing on a dinner table

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Turkey, stuffing, potatoes, oh my! Thanksgiving is a time of appreciation — appreciation for family, for friends, for the number of things in your life that bring you joy and happiness. And of course, Thanksgiving is a time of delicious food.

However, Thanksgiving is also a time of entertainment, guests, and unfortunately, overcommitting. You likely have, in one way or another, felt the stresses of Thanksgiving. Whether that be stress stemming from the fact that you are going to have a house full of guests, stress in the form of social anxiety that you’ve got to battle all day, stress in knowing that you are going to be overindulging in sweets and jumping off your healthy track, etc., stress surrounding Thanksgiving is prevalent.

While this stress can take a wide variety of forms, don’t worry — there is hope. By knowing what your “triggers” are, you can put into practice some of the below ideas for turning the stress knob down, and learning how to really enjoy this holiday that is, at its roots, a day of thanks. So if you’re feeling stressed about the upcoming holiday for one reason or another, read on to see if you find solace in the below tips.

1. Plan the meal ahead of time

Trying to put together a last-minute dinner on a normal day is fine. You may even decide you just don’t have the mental or physical energy to cook and opt to order food instead. However, on Thanksgiving, many people feel that this really isn’t an option. (Although, in all honesty, there is no shame in a take-out or dine-in Thanksgiving. Ralphie’s family did it in A Christmas Story, and their Thanksgiving was certainly one for the books!)

If you feel that a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner is the only option, then there is one major tip you can’t live without: The best way to avoid the stress that comes along with trying to throw together a Thanksgiving dinner last-minute is to plan things ahead of time. Here are some steps you can take to plan:

  • Plan out the menu days, even weeks ahead of time — decide on dishes, drinks, etc.
  • Purchase groceries as early as possible, without risking spoiling
  • If there are dishes you can make ahead of time, be sure to do that
  • Plan out the actual day — what times you plan to cook each item so that you can see that it will all get done

There is also the option to ask some of your guests to bring dishes with them — that way, the stress isn’t all on you. Also, your guests will be happy to have something to contribute to the day that you’ve worked so hard to plan.

2. Find time to get a workout in

Thanksgiving is the ultimate day of overindulging. From seconds and thirds of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, to I’ve-died-and-gone-to-pie-heaven desserts, chances are very good that you will be taking in a lot more food on Thanksgiving than your average day. First of all, don’t beat yourself up about it! One day of overdoing it isn’t going to kill you — just plan to get back on track the next day.

Regardless of how strict your diet is, you’ve got to give yourself the opportunity to live, or else your diet will never be a success. A great way to bring down the anxious feeling you will likely have about eating so much rich food is to find a way to incorporate a workout into your Thanksgiving. You could do this in a number of ways. Here are some ideas:

  • A quick trip to the gym before your guests come over, or before you head over to the house of whomever is hosting the feast
  • If your gym is closed, opt for a quick workout at home in your living room
  • Create a game for your family to play at Thanksgiving either before or after dinner (such as flag football, tag, hide-and-seek, really anything that gets people moving)
  • Sign up for a Thanksgiving 5K, and see if you can’t get some of your family and friends to join you
  • Head to the yoga studio for a quick yoga session
  • If the studio is closed, practice yoga at home

Just knowing that you sweated a bit today will make you feel less guilty about going back for that second slice of pie. And that’s how you should feel! Don’t let your food/exercise anxiety keep you from enjoying this wonderful holiday.

3. Make it a group effort

Involving some of your friends and/or family in the planning and execution of your Thanksgiving day feast will not only make it less stressful, it will make it much more fun! Have someone print out menus to make it feel that much more festive, bring a buddy along with you to grocery shop, and ask for opinions on what the menu items should be.

When it comes to cooking, find a couple people to help you the day of. No one wants to spend Thanksgiving alone in the kitchen, cooking for hours, while others are out mingling and enjoying each other. With a couple of friends or family members at your side in the kitchen, things will get done much quicker and you’ll be able to enjoy the day. Remember — this holiday is all about bringing loved ones together to be thankful.

It is not about you struggling through massive stress and anxiety so that others can have fun.

4. Keep your priorities in order

Did you burn the turkey? Is your gravy just not working out at all? While this may be incredibly disappointing to you with all the work you’ve put in, keep one thing in mind: Thanksgiving is about the people, not the food. Sure, the food is nice. Heck, it’s great! However, people are really coming together to see each other, not to just eat with each other. Remember this if you start to feel your stress levels rise when things start to go wrong in the kitchen.

5. Don’t forget to breathe, especially when conversations get heavy

Everyone has that one relative that says things he or she shouldn’t — comments on one person gaining weight, offends others by spewing politics, etc. While you can’t change that person and what is going to come out of their mouths, you can control how you react to it.

When you hear something that gets your heart rate increasing, and your stress reaching a maximum, take a moment to step away and take a few deep breaths. You are not going to change this person by putting fire on their fire, so remove yourself until you feel calm again. And, refer back to number 4 above — keep your priorities in order.

Though that relative may be difficult to handle at times, chances are he/she has some great qualities, as well as your other family and friends that are spending the day with you. Don’t let one offensive comment ruin your whole day. When the thought of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday sends you into a black hole of stress, come back to these tips and remember that you can make this an enjoyable holiday for yourself.

Knowing what your struggles are ahead of time and having a plan in place to implement when you need, will ensure that you see the fun in Thanksgiving and eventually turn that stress into bliss.

Concerned about your vein health?

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Satish Vayuvegula
Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is the National Medical Director at Vein Clinics of America. Certified by the American Board of Venous & Lymphatic Medicine, Dr. Satish Vayuvegula is recognized as a physician who has met rigorous standards of knowledge and extensive training in phlebology, the diagnosis and treatment of varicose vein disease and related disorders. Dr. Satish also shares his passion and expertise by serving as a board member of the American Vein and Lymphatic Society, the predominant national organization for venous and lymphatic disease.

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