Like clockwork, the food-centric holiday creeps up quicker than a turkey thermometer pops.
If you’re hosting this year, it’s time to start planning now. The menu, the guest list, the seating arrangements...it can feel like a lot.
And being stressed out is no way to enjoy a holiday.
By creating an action plan now, you can minimize stressful situations and help the day go smoothly. While you can’t control how your family members act, you can change your reactions. You can also be in control of who you invite and the cooking schedule, too.
Ready to start prepping for a stress-free holiday?
Check out our tips below on how to de-stress the menu, venue, and overall day’s events for a healthier and happier Thanksgiving.
Here’s our Thanksgiving checklist to manage holiday stress:
De-stress the Menu
There’s no point in creating the “perfect” menu if it’s going to take away from your overall joy during the actual event. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart for your guests to appreciate a home-cooked meal filled with love.
How to bring the menu planning stress down a notch:
- Simplify - You don’t have to have extravagant dishes or please everyone.
- Delegate - Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep little ones busy with washing vegetables. If relatives or friends are willing to jump in, have little tasks ready. Everything from peeling potatoes to running out to the store for a last-minute item can alleviate the burden on you.
- Stick to the list - Make a list of all your recipes and ingredients and stick to it. Reduce as many changes as possible on the day of cooking. If someone has a special request for a meal that’s not your specialty, ask that they bring it as their contribution.
- Shop early - Get all the spices, drinks, and odds and ends as early as possible. Verify several days before that you have all you need. The closer it gets to the holiday, the busier the stores get and the more likely items will be out of stock.
- Prep in advance - Cook or prep everything you can — minus the turkey — in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Elaborate desserts, special beverages, and salads can be made well in advance to minimize the number of recipes you have going on the day of Thanksgiving.
- Get the bird ready - Add thawing the turkey to your calendar on the appropriate date. You can set a phone alert or even add a sticky note to your fridge as a reminder.
- Reduce cooking stress points - If you obsess over gravy or rolls but those recipes aren’t your strong point, buy the pre-made products. It doesn’t all need to be made from scratch!
- Keep options open - If it will just be you and your spouse, or you hate cooking extravagant meals, make reservations instead. Let someone else do the cooking and the clean-up!
De-stress the Venue
Have you ever walked into a room and felt the stress? Your guests can feel that, too. Turn on some cheerful music, light some candles, and set the ambiance for a joyful, grateful gathering.
Here are a few ideas to keep the stress away:
- Clean house - If hosting at home, plan out your cleaning schedule the week before. Better yet, make sure your cleaning service is scheduled close to the holiday — a day or so before guests arrive is ideal.
- Create seating arrangements - Noone wants to stand up while eating their Thanksgiving meal. Create a final guest list in advance. Kids coming? You may need a smaller table. Make a list early on so you can procure extra chairs or tables if needed. If so, ask your neighbors and family to help out.
- Consider outside options for large groups - If your family is just too big to host, consider taking the meal outdoors. There may be a local park, pavilion, community building, or another venue nearby to fit your whole family comfortably. Note: See number 8 above!
De-stress the Day
Set the mood for the day as soon as you wake up. You may want to schedule your alarm to go off a little earlier to make sure you have plenty of time to get the turkey in the oven. Enjoy your usual routine — whether that’s a workout or a cup of coffee — and then get on with your Thanksgiving checklist. Remember, gratitude is the word of the day!
Here’s how to keep the mood relaxed all day:
- Show gratitude - Thanksgiving is about being thankful, so express gratitude all day. Gratitude is a natural stress reducer. Ask guests to share what they’re thankful for; it’s a fun icebreaker and bonding activity.
- Eat when you’re hungry - Have light, healthy snacks available before dinner, especially if dinner is later in the day. Hungry people are stressed people. No need for “hangry” relatives to start snapping at one another.
- Be patient and accepting - Family gatherings can be full of stress for everyone. Being patient, kind, and gracious can diffuse a lot of tension. Try some stress-reducing activities if your family gets to be too much.
- Focus on the positive - Try to keep work and other worries on the back burner. Keeping those at the forefront of your mind all day will minimize the joy you could be experiencing instead.
- Cut yourself some slack - Nothing is ever perfect. Try to accept if something isn’t quite right that the holiday isn’t ruined. Find humor in the cooking mishaps!
- Get plenty of sleep the night before - When you feel well-rested you will be less likely to snap at your loved ones. Considering starting the day off with a gratitude meditation or a positive mantra like: “This will be the best Thanksgiving yet.”
Start Your Thanksgiving Checklist Today
Being organized is one of the best ways to reduce stress around planning a Thanksgiving meal. It’s only one day out of an entire year, so putting unnecessary pressure on yourself can make it difficult to enjoy it.
That’s why outlining your Thanksgiving checklist well in advance matters.
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, guarding your time and energy can also help you maintain a healthy mental state, too.
Starting this week with your planning can help minimize the day-of stress whether you’re hosting two people or 20 guests. By getting your recipes, ingredients, and guest list all squared away this week, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the hosting experience next week.
Here at TotalWellness, we wish you and yours a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!