When you think about Thanksgiving; gratitude, good food, and football may be the first things that come to your mind. For others, we may feel our stress level rising as we think about all the work, anticipate potential family tension, and the low-grade resentment that creeps in from feeling like we have to do it all.
I once asked a client what her plans were for Thanksgiving, she sighed,
“To just get through it.”
9 times out of 10 women share with me that while they enjoy the holidays they often find themselves feeling stressed, exhausted and resentful.
While Thanksgiving can be a joyful time it can also be a stressful time with a minefield of triggers. If we’re not conscious of it, we can go through the holidays feeling resentful, disappointed or on autopilot; another holiday has passed like sifting sand in an hourglass.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Simply by asking ourselves some questions and thinking through some strategies, we can make this Thanksgiving less stressful, more meaningful and fun.
Here are 5 ways to have a meaningful, fun and less stressed Thanksgiving:
Identify areas of possible breakdowns.
The holidays offer plenty of opportunities to be stressed out and anxious. The biggest source of holiday stress is family and setups to be resentful.
Here are a few strategies to help:
Use this formula: When _________happens (or might happen), I will ______________(do this to take care of myself).
Here’s a few ideas:
Figure out how you will take care of yourself in specific situations.
Notice when you are feeling resentful and ask for help.
Talk to your spouse, partner or family members and figure out ways you can support each other.
Remember to breathe and be in the moment.
Speak up. If someone begins to talk about something that you don’t like, kindly say, “Let’s talk about something else.”
Extend some grace to family members that irritate you.
Focus on the positive.
Allow others to have their reactions even if you disagree with them.
Get out of the house and take a walk.
Resist being a people pleaser. It’s not your job to make everybody happy.
Limit the amount of time you spend at a relative’s home or let guests know the time you’d like everyone to leave.
Create a vision for your Thanksgiving.
What would an ideal Thanksgiving look like? Write it down. Be specific.
Here are a few questions and ideas:
What is one thing you could do that would make it fun for you?
What could you do that would make it meaningful?
How can you take care of yourself when you notice you’re feeling stressed?
What strategies do you need to have in place for potential breakdowns (when you’re feeling overwhelmed, a relative is getting on your nerves, your kids are not helping, or you find yourself mad at your husband).
How can you shift your focus to being grateful?
Ask for help.
I find that women are often more comfortable feeling resentful than asking for help. Sucking it up and doing too much is a resentment setup and joy killer. Remind yourself that it’s worth asking and fighting through some resistance. It’s much more fun when everyone helps out.
Here are a few ideas:
Make a list of “to dos” and have each person pick 2 on the list. (one of my children likes to be creative so she sets and decorates the table).
Cut corners – buy some dishes premade.
If you’re a perfectionist, remind yourself that things don’t have to be perfect; it’s about being together than really matters.
Ask your guests to bring their favorite dish.
Give your mother-in-law a job to do that she enjoys.
Get on the same page with your husband. How can you partner together?
Prepare the food a day or two ahead of time.
Go out to dinner the night before so you don’t have to cook.
When you notice yourself feeling resentful ask yourself what you need.
Make helping fun and an opportunity to connect with one another. Play music. Make a dish together. Give people jobs to do.
Remind yourself that others actually do like to be needed and help out.
Make time for gratitude.
Take some time this Thanksgiving to reflect and be grateful.
Get up early, journal; take a walk in nature, pray a prayer of gratitude while you enjoy a cup of coffee.
Write out 3 things you are grateful for about each member and post it somewhere they can see (Use Our Gratitude Affirmations in the files).
Set the intention to have a heart of gratitude throughout the day.
Focus on the positive qualities of each person present.
Practice a spirit of acceptance even though things may not be the way you want them to be.
Celebrate the present moment.
Have fun together.
Being together makes the most meaningful memories. Create opportunities for connection, playfulness, and laughter.
Here are a few ideas:
Put the phones away for a time.
Play a board game. Here are a few of our favorites – Apples to Apples, Hedbanz, Would You Rather, Charades, Backgammon, and Checkers.
Get physical – take a family walk, play Turkey Tag, Freeze dance, touch football, or Wiffle ball.
Have everyone write down 3 things they are thankful for and share them at the table.
Ask your kids for ideas to create family fun.
Have a puzzle for everyone to work on.
Play music. Maybe even dance!
Have your children pick a favorite dish to prepare together.
Share favorite memories of a loved one.
Spend time having coffee with your husband before the start of the day.
Set the day up for success -partner with your husband a few days ahead – talk through what would be fun for both of you.
Thanksgiving can be a meaningful and enjoyable day when we are intentional to plan ahead. Create a vision, include others, and find creative ways to have fun. Remember to take the time to take pleasure in all of the precious moments throughout the day. These are the days and memories to savor! Make the most of it.