Ah the image of a Norman Rockwell family holiday. Everyone gathered around a beautifully adorned Thanksgiving table, extended to its capacity to fit the entire family. The hours of preparations in the kitchen now but a vapor. Your family takes their places. Everyone is ready to dig in. You, on the other hand, collapse into your chair with exhaustion, suddenly wondering if you remembered to turn the oven off.

You’ve spent the last three days baking pies, making side dishes, decorating and now it’s finally here. But what if you forgot something? Or it doesn’t measure up to all you hoped it would be? It’s ok! The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, not to be a burden! Yet with all the stress of getting it all done, we can feel anxious and overwhelmed.

What can you do to lighten your load, enjoy the day, and put the ‘Happy’ back in Thanksgiving?

  1. Review your expectations and keep it in perspective

Are you realistically looking at the holiday or are you building it up in a way that will only leave you disappointed? Keep your expectations in check and put the day in perspective. Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for all that you have and to share it with family or friends. Enjoy what you have with those you have to enjoy it with. Let anything else be a bonus, not an expectation.

  1.  Set boundaries.

We continue to live in a politically charged society. If you know you don’t see eye to eye with your Uncle Matt on politics, don’t bring up politics across the Thanksgiving table. Taboo topics aren’t limited to politics. Be aware of what “that” topic is for your family. Let your family know that subject is off limits. If someone brings up a taboo topic, be ready to redirect. Remember – You don’t have to go to every argument you are invited to.

  1.  Remember, it’s not about you

“This turkey is a little dry” your Aunt Sarah criticizes bringing the table conversation to a hush. You’ve worked so hard to pull together the dinner and just want to cry. Even if Aunt Sarah is always the one with the critical tongue, it can sting when the words hit you. Don’t take it personally! Your value isn’t based on what she thinks of your cooking! And, in the end, Thanksgiving isn’t about the food. Pass her the gravy or pour her some punch. Even if you burn the entire meal, comments about food should not be translated as personal judgments on you. The turkey may be dry but that certainly does not mean you’re a failure! Refuse to take comments about the meal to heart as criticisms of your worth.

  1.  Have a plan

Depending on how challenging your family may be for you, it may make sense to have a plan to keep yourself emotionally in a good or safe place. Know when you’ve had enough and need to remove yourself from a conversation, retreat to a different room, and recognize when its time to head home. When you need to regroup, go for a walk, or go play with the kids. Be conscious of your “meter” and when it’s time to recharge or step away.

  1.  Remember why you are celebrating!

Be thankful for the big things that have made a difference in your life this year… and be sure to remember the little things too. Share a smile. Let the world slow down and just “be” with those you love. Visit, laugh, enjoy!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!  And enjoy the start of the Christmas Season!

What part of the Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season are you most looking forward to? Have you started preparing? What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

I’d love to hear from you!

See you back here next Tuesday for more encouragement.