Tips on How to Stress Less at Thanksgiving

If the thought of putting on a Thanksgiving spread for your family makes your heart palpitate, you’re not alone. A few years ago, conducted a survey where the majority of respondents admitted they’re not thrilled about the holiday.

Try the following tips on how to stress less at Thanksgiving and keep your sanity intact:

Lower your expectations

Shut down that Norman Rockwell scene in your head about what Thanksgiving should be. It’s never what you envision, yet you’re disappointed when it’s reaffirmed every year with your messy family dynamics. Why not just accept that you’ll be OK with that? Give thanks for what is, not what should be.

Don’t try and do it all

Do you really need a turkey, 3 kinds of potatoes, 7 side dishes and an assortment of pies? Do you have the time or energy to do all that? Simplify. You can still make a nice meal without going overboard and you’ll have more time to spend with your guests vs. racing around the kitchen hating your life.

Start new traditions

Just because your family has done something one way for years, doesn’t mean you have to continue doing it that way, especially if it makes you miserable. Dine out, or volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Change it up.

Start the day right

Before everything gets too out of hand, take some time for you. Sit quietly and meditate upon awakening. Get your workout crossed off your list. Take part in a local walk/run event to set a healthy tone for the day.

Let it go

People are who they are: flawed human beings with their own expectations, coping mechanisms and issues. You can choose to get sucked into their drama or you can save yourself some grief and just let it go. Be the bigger person, the adult. Don’t engage in drama, because no one wins. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you have any suggestions on how to stress less at Thanksgiving? Let me know in the comments!

The Comfort of Hot Soup on a Cold Day

There’s nothing like the comfort of hot soup on a cold day, especially when you’re craving a satisfying meal. It’s easy to throw everything into a pot and let it simmer, making your home smell great in anticipation of a delicious treat. And, if you make large portions, you can freeze some for additional meals later. Finally, with the abundance of online recipes available, you can find healthier alternatives to many of the old standbys, changing up a few ingredients without sacrificing taste.

First, a word about the tools you’ll need to make a great pot of soup. Sure, you can use any standard pot with a lid, but if you want to take it up a notch, try a Dutch oven. These ceramic workhorses distribute heat evenly and can be used on a stovetop and in the oven so they’re very versatile. You can also use a slow cooker. Simply load your ingredients in the morning and let it simmer all day on low. No fuss, little muss. Check out some of these recipes for inspiration.

While I could wax rhapsodic about the subject of soup all day long, neither of us has time for that. So I’ll end with this nugget.

I love chicken soup, with or without noodles or dumplings. I swear homemade chicken soup really does help make a sick child feel better. But sometimes I want something a little heartier than a broth-based soup. This Creamy Chicken Soup recipe is next on my list because it sounds absolutely amazing. Plus, it looks easy to make, incorporating a store-bought rotisserie chicken, which you can find almost anywhere.  (Confession: I had to look up what Herbs of Provence were and here‘s a good recipe to try to make your own.)

Soup’s On! Now get cooking!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I wasn’t always a Scrooge.

In fact, I have fond memories of Christmas as a young girl. Trekking out to find the perfect tree and decorating it while Christmas albums played in the background. Baking cookies. Poring through the Sears and JC Penney catalogs to compile a list of the toys I wanted. Opening a new window on the Advent calendar each day. Visiting the mannequin displays in the department stores downtown. Christmas Eve service and the thrill of hearing the congregation reverently sing “Silent Night” by candlelight. Playing “Guess the Ornament” with my sister.

When I had children of my own, I continued some of those traditions. I decorated the house, baked the cookies and bought and wrapped the presents. Watching two little girls on Christmas morning as they discovered their goodies? There really is nothing better.

But the joy I had as a youngster has faded a bit and I have come to regard this as the opposite of  “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” In addition to regular day-to-day obligations, the season also piles on more: social gatherings, screwy schedules, shopping, spending. It can feel overwhelming. I’m offended by the holiday displays that appear before Halloween. I’m dismayed by Black Friday and the greedy behavior of some people who mere hours earlier focused on being grateful. I’m stressed about the never-ending to-do list. I feel tremendous guilt around the redefined version of our family and how it affects the girls during the season.

So I have to force myself to be conscious to look at the holidays through their eyes. Typically I don’t like to put up a Christmas tree until December. This year my youngest lobbied to get festive a week before Thanksgiving and I went with it. Intrigued by the concept of Black Friday, I knowingly took them to the mall on the most chaotic day of the year. In the coming days we’ll make cutout cookies and other treats, shop for Toys for Tots, drive around and look at holiday lights and hopefully do a whole bunch of sledding and ice skating over their winter break.

I will try my hardest to not get stressed out by it all, taking a cue from this, which lists a lot of good ways to do that. I don’t have a wish list per se, but if I did I’d want these things:

1)      An appreciation of time spent with family and friends.

2)      The ability to not demand perfection from myself or others.

3)      To forget the bad parts of the past and start new traditions on my terms.

4)      To enjoy each moment as it comes.

Have any tips on how to survive the most wonderful time of the year? Let me know in the comments!