Helpful Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

The cooking, the time with the family, and the travel -- Thanksgiving can be stressful! The holiday can take its toll both physically and emotionally, but there are steps you can take to help minimize those holiday stressors. We chatted with clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Ho to get some tips on how to survive the holiday.

Let Go of Expectations

“You should really determine for yourself what you find enjoyable and then make decisions from there,” she says, explaining that it is okay to let go of preconceived ideas of what the holiday is supposed to look like. For example, feeling like you have to spend the holiday with your family. The holiday is yours to decide what fits your life best. A gathering of friends might be your idea of the perfect holiday.

Watch: What Happens to Your Stomach When You Overeat  

What Do You Want Your Holiday to Be About?

She suggests asking yourself, “Who are the people you really want to see?” She says this begins with your values and with what you find valuable. This will help to guide on deciding what that day should look like.

Set Time Limits & Boundaries

Dr. Judy recommends creating boundaries on the amount of time spent with the entire family unit if needed. Most holiday gatherings can last all day and into the night, but she questions if this has to be the case for someone who feels stressed by this much family time. If you have a difficult family member or loved one, decide ahead of time how much time you are capable or spending with them and once that time has passed, leave. She says, “Don’t feel bad about that… just show up for dessert, have an amazing 30 minutes and then leave and you’re going to feel much better about that. And the more you can strengthen that muscle and the better you’ll feel about it next year.” She says a limited amount of time can help keep you more present and engaged.

Watch: How to Feel Less Full

Put Away the Devices and Turn off the TV!

In addition to helping everyone be more mindful, ditching your phone and turning off the TV can also help to avoid potential hot-button issues like politics. She says that agreeing ahead of time that certain topics are off-limits, like for example a divisive family member or past family drama, will help cut down on the day's stress. She feels like collectively agreeing to not discuss these types of topics can help you have a better holiday.

If You're Hosting, Embrace a Time Limit for Guests

She suggests creating a set time for guests to arrive, to eat and also a time which the event will wrap up. She says this will allow the host time to clean up and also time to unwind and relax. She feels like that without a boundary, many people will stay longer at the gathering because they feel obligated to, but in reality, they may also want to leave at a certain time. Having an exit time for guests will ensure there is no lingering.