The Thanksgiving holiday brings back fond memories from many years ago. Mom and dad would bundle up the kids and travel to my grandparents’ home. Dad would always sing “Over the River and Through the Woods” while we were driving to spend time with kin. My grandparents were so rich with the gifts they gave from their hearts. We would squeeze upwards of 25 people in their tiny home. I was so excited to see our family from Ohio since we only connected during the Thanksgiving holiday.  These are fond memories that I hold dear in my heart.

Holidays can create beautiful memories at the same time as cause stressful situations.  Here are some tips to keep the Thanksgiving holiday a treasured memory:

Plan for Dinner, Dishes, and Decorations.  All fabulous feasts start with a good plan. The plan includes a menu, guest list, decorations, table setting and cooking and clean up duties. If you have people who want to easily communicate with each other, create a Dropbox account. It’s an online program where you can share files between dinner attendees who are helping with the menu and more. Create files for your plan that everyone can contribute to make the perfect meal. Great planning also includes asking for help. Create a sign-up sheet so people may bring dishes.  I always love to try a new recipe before a big event. This prevents having a mediocre dish for dinner.

Put the Give Back in Thanksgiving.  Give to another person or family this Thanksgiving season. When stressed, we get so focused on the big day event that we forget those who may not have something to eat or a place to go. One of my favorite things to do is ask someone to spend the day that would otherwise be alone. Share toys at a local children’s hospital or bring homemade food and goodies to a nursing home facility. Give to another person less fortunate than you when you are feeling obsessed about the perfect holiday. Your perspective will immediately change.

Make Time for You. Open your date book and look at the next two weeks. Do you see any recharge time planned for you? Plan a 30-minute massage, reading or relaxation time. Break up the time with refueling your energy tank. Do what it takes to give back to you.

Look at Your Expectations. Some folks search for that perfect holiday. It’s the Thanksgiving with the ideal table setting, food, guests who all get along and nothing goes wrong all day. Check your expectations to make sure you have left space for life to happen. I love my childhood Thanksgiving memories but I can’t recreate them.  Families change over the course of many years. Setting the expectation bar to high sets you up for misery. Be present in the moment of Thanksgiving.

Leave a comment below about hints that help reduce your stress for Thanksgiving below!


For over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives.Lisa specializes stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.

19 thoughts on “Stress and Holidays: How to Plan for a Thankful Thanksgiving”

  1. Great tips Lisa. I’m not sure if Thanksgiving in the US is different from ours in Canada, but one thing our family makes a conscious effort to do is to say “Thank you to all the farmers” . I believe many people tend to forget the role that farmers play (I’m not a farmer myself), and without them I bet we would have a tough time getting food from the ground to the table. I, for one, don’t know the 1st thing about growing veggies or milking a cow, or raising turkeys. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wonderful tips Lisa! I love the tip to plan the clean up….I’m not sure that’s something that I’ve specifically planned before.
    I also really appreciate your encouragement to give to another person or family who isn’t as fortunate to shift your perspective back to the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

  3. I love the part about putting “give” back in Thanksgiving. If we use this approach every day our lives will be so enriched. Another point about “expectiations” hits home with me; I tend to have too high of ones in many areas….Great advice, thanks for sharing!

  4. Yes, Thanksgiving can be a time of stress if we aren’t careful….However, thank you for the wonderful tips Lisa. I especially love the one about coordinating with others through Dropbox. Thanks for the share!

  5. Adjusting expectations is a powerful step for a thankful Thanksgiving.

    One of the things I’ve noticed is the more in control someone has to be, the higher the stress level because that person has to compete with and against others to force their need for control to be a reality for everyone involved.

  6. So few of us put forth the effort to “put the giving back in Thanksgiving”. Thank you for the reminder. I’m going to be spending some planning time this week, looking for ways to do just that!

  7. Wonderful post! Great tips on how to make and prepare Thanksgiving and holidays less stressful and make it a memorable one! Something worth to be treasured!

  8. Great tips on how to handle stress over the Thanksgiving holidays! I am going to have to remember that spa trip for sure :-)! Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

  9. Great post! I love your tip about planning in advance. I have found that when I plan for things, my days seem to run so much smoother! Thanks for sharing and I pray that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  10. Great ideas. Planning ahead is important, but I think not having too high of expectations is probably the most important point. We spend so much time planning for the holidays and then expecting everything will be “perfect” and everyone will behave “perfectly” and then when everything is normal and everyone acts like they always have, we are too often disappointed and allow an otherwise wonderful time to be ruined.

  11. Recalling your Thanksgiving as a child,reminds me of how happy we were as a family.We can not bring those days back but are left with a beautiful memory.Looking forward to spending Thanksgiving day with you ,Sharyn and family. that too will become another memory we will not forget.

  12. Great tips, Lisa. Like you, I also have wonderful family memories of Thanksgiving. But, that doesn’t keep it from becoming more stressful as we grow older and have our families. Sometimes it’s hard when the expectation is that everyone will get together and have fun – no matter what! I like your advice to keep in mind the spirit of the holiday.

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