You rise at 4am to put the turkey in the oven and begin preparing all the side dishes and desserts. You spend the next twelve hours in a hot kitchen, cooking, washing every pot and pan that you own, and secretly wishing the day would just hurry up and be done.
Sound familiar? Parents often don’t have enough time, money, or energy on an ordinary day, and the addition of responsibilities and extra commitments for Thanksgiving can bring you to your breaking point.
During each part of our Thanksgiving festivities, there are ways we can decrease stress and frustration, keep our energy up, and stay positive. After all, Thanksgiving Day is about family and gratitude. Those things are hard to focus on when we work ourselves into a frenzy trying to make things perfect – only to end up irritable and exhausted before dinner is even served.
So what can we do to give our loved ones a joyful holiday, while also making sure we retain our sanity?
Plan and Prepare: When hosting a big event, as Thanksgiving dinner usually is, planning ahead can save your sanity. Make lists ahead of time of what you will need and who will be attending. Be realistic about the time it will take to complete everything you envision for the day, and make yourself deadlines to put on the calendar. Doing everything at the last minute will lead to stress, frustration, and extra trips to the store!
Simplify: Thanksgiving is a holiday rich in tradition, but if all the hustle and bustle of the day is getting overwhelming, think about simplifying your plans this year. We don’t need to plan a magazine-worthy meal with ten side dishes and four pies. More often than not, we take way too much on when it is not necessary. Think about downsizing the menu this year to just a few family favorites.
This is also the day we get our china and silver out and iron our fancy tablecloth. While this makes for a beautiful presentation, it can be a lot of added work. The memories you make on this day will revolve around the time you spend with family, and that time dwindles when you have a thousand extra dishes to wash. This year, grab a roll of butcher paper from the craft store, let the kids draw holiday pictures on it, and buy some paper plates. Often, a more low-key celebration is one with far less stress – and when you have a more casual dinner, everyone feels more relaxed!
Ask for help: Oftentimes, moms feel the need to take on all of the holiday preparations and make everything perfect for the special day. It is very easy to take on too much thinking we can do it all. Make the holiday a lot easier on yourself by asking everyone to bring a dish to share and assigning the kids to set-up and clean-up duty. Ask a few friends to come early and help you cook and decorate before everyone else arrives.
Minimize travel stress: Make sure to do your research to keep stress at bay during Thanksgiving travel. The day before and Monday following Thanksgiving are some of the busiest travel days of the year. If you are flying, allow plenty of time and make sure you check online for the latest TSA regulations. Go over safety rules with the kids and give them a checklist of what they can and cannot pack for the trip.
If you are driving, make sure to travel on off-peak days. Pack plenty of water and healthy snacks, as well as games and books for the kids. Nothing is worse than a car full of grumpy kids when you have a long drive ahead.
Keep up your healthy habits: Just because it is Thanksgiving does not mean you have to gorge or abandon healthy habits that you have been practicing. Everyone will enjoy the day more by watching portion sizes and not overindulging in alcohol or sugary desserts, which can make you feel tired and sluggish.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day and make sure to eat some healthy snacks besides the big meal. Getting overly hungry while cooking for hours will likely cause you to overeat and feel miserable later. Thanksgiving should be a time to enjoy the company of visitors, so you will want to feel your best.
All of that potentially unhealthy food is only one concern in feeling your best this Thanksgiving. With all those friends and family members around, it can be very common to pick up a cold or other illness during your holiday get-together.
Encourage everyone to practice good hygiene by frequently washing hands during meal prep and before dinner. Place boxes of tissues in plain sight for those with runny noses, and remind the little ones to cough or sneeze away from others (and the food) if they have cold symptoms.
Get active: Nothing helps beat the post-dinner crash of energy like moving around. Take a walk around the neighborhood with your houseguests, play a family game of football in the yard, or get the kids to lead the adults in a game of charades. Exercise will help keep your energy and mood up so you can enjoy every minute of the day.
Most importantly, Shape Magazine suggests:
Focus on the good. It’s easy to harp on the things that go wrong, but feeling grateful for the positive aspects of your life can boost your mood, energy levels, and strengthen relationships with your loved ones. So take the holiday to heart and stop a second during the busy day to remember all the things you’re thankful for.
It is very easy to get overwhelmed with a noisy house full of people and so much to cook – and clean up afterwards. Keep in mind what really matters this holiday. Will your kids remember you being part of the fun of the day, or staying in the kitchen all night cleaning up? The mess can wait while you spend precious time together.
Going through hard times this holiday? Many people struggle on Thanksgiving Day. They may have suffered a loss this year, have no family nearby, or be experiencing depression or illness themselves. Thanksgiving can be the beginning of a very difficult time of year for those who are going through a hard time.
If you are blessed enough to have a house full of family and plenty of food on this day of thanks, say a special prayer at dinner for those who are less fortunate. Model gratitude and generosity to your children by reaching out to others who may not be looking forward to the holiday.
You can begin a wonderful family tradition by having your kids put together food and cards and delivering them to seniors or others who may be alone. Ask your church pastor if there is anyone who may be struggling this Thanksgiving and reach out to them. You may even be moved to include them in your family dinner plans.
(h/t Mommy Underground)