As November arrives it can be all too easy to let the Thanksgiving stress set in.
It’s such a big event, close to our hearts and with a lot of expectation attached to it too. So, how we do enjoy a stress-free Thanksgiving?
How do we relish in the joy of celebrating with our family and friends, without letting Thanksgiving anxiety get the better of us?
Join us as we explore tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving and share advice on planning the best Thanksgiving yet.
Thanksgiving Stress: Focus On What Counts
Before you get started on your epic shopping list or begin to message guests with times and details, pause and focus on what counts.
This one simple action is perhaps the most important in achieving a stress-free Thanksgiving.
Ask yourself this one question and write the answer down in your journal or on your phone.
‘What three things mean the most to me about Thanksgiving?’
This can be a great way to approach any potentially stressful life event. If you asked the same question about your wedding, for example, it can help you focus on the really important parts. You might say that for your wedding the three most important things would be to invite a big guest list, to have live music and to have lots of dancing. That would impact how you plan your big day. You’d make sure you got married somewhere that was set up for a live band to play, somewhere big enough to host your whole community and you’d time the day to make sure you had a few hours on the dance floor.
Prioritising And Making Good Decisions
Doing the same for Thanksgiving will help you prioritise and make decisions. Is the most important thing to be able to invite your whole family, friends and neighbors? Well, maybe scale back on the food plans and cook a simple dish instead. Or, do you love marking celebratory occasions with delicious food? If so, perhaps keep your guest list small and intimate and plan a decadent three course meal.
Honing in on the few things that really matter to you about Thanksgiving can really help take the stress out of the holiday.
Thanksgiving Stress: Get Organised
Whether you’re a chronic planner or more of a fly by the seat of your pants type, Thanksgiving is a time to get organised.
In the weeks running up to the event make sure you’ve got the items below ticked off and you’ll arrive at the holiday feeling much more peaceful.
Finalise numbers: check in with all of your invited guests to finalise numbers. Some may have realised they’ve double booked, others may spring a plus one on you. Checking in with them now can pre-empt any stressful last minute changes.
Menu plan and write an exhaustive list: plan your menu and then write a shopping list that covers every eventuality. Having extra snacks and plentiful drinks options in will take the pressure off if food takes longer than planned.
Book an online shop: either book an online grocery shop to arrive the day before or block out the time for a visit to the store in your diary.
A Chance To Practice Thankfulness
The origins of the Thanksgiving holiday are rooted in thankfulness and in celebrating the blessing of a good harvest. The holiday also marks the coming together of two people groups, both key in America’s history.
As Christians, celebrating Thanksgiving now provides a wonderful opportunity to practice gratitude.
Psalm 69:30 says: “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving.”
There are numerous other encouragements to be thankful found in Scripture too. In Colossians 3 Paul reminds us to have thankfulness in our hearts. Throughout the Psalms David gives thanks over and over to God. One example is in Psalm 9 where David sings of giving thanks to God with his whole heart and of recounting His wonderful deeds.
So, while Thanksgiving is rooted in America’s history, we can also make it a celebration that we root in our faith.
Thanksgiving Stress: Trade Stress For Peace
Your commitment to gratitude over Thanksgiving can extend beyond the simple thank yous as you sit down to dinner.
Practice gratitude in every moment of your preparation for the holiday and experience the incredible exchange of stress for peace that happens.
As we express our thanksgiving to God we actively shift our perspective away from our troubles and back to our blessings.
Colossians reminds us to ‘”set our minds on things above”. This simple instruction guides us into living with heaven’s perspective. To not get weighed down by the things we face on earth but to invite the goodness of heaven into our lives today.
Line Up A Gratitude Exercise
Why not try a new gratitude exercise this Thanksgiving? A fresh approach to giving thanks can provoke new thoughts and leave you and your guests feeling uplifted and encouraged.
Here are two ideas to include in your Thanksgiving feast this year:
Pop a large glass jar in the centre of your table. Add a pencil and some strips of paper to each place setting and encourage your guests to write down things they are thankful for and add them to the jar. Keep going until the end of the meal and take a moment to appreciate the sheer quantity of blessings.
Prepare three gratitude prompts or questions and ask one with each course. They could be ‘name five people you’re thankful for’ or ‘what one thing are you glad you experienced this year?’.
Using these questions will help your guests find more and more things they’re thankful for. As they do, the joy of focusing on all the ways God has been good to them will fill them up.
A combination of getting organised and turning your heart towards gratitude can mean you have a Thanksgiving that’s filled with joy instead of stress.
If you’re struggling to stay stress-free and calm on the day, then pray this simple prayer.
Thank you for the blessing of friends, family and food to celebrate with.
I ask you to be with me today as I look after my guests and prepare the meal.
Help me to still be present and focused on the people at my table.
Help me to make people feel warm, welcomed and at home.
I ask you to create an atmosphere of joy and gratitude as we sit and eat together.
As we eat, share, and talk, let us feel your presence and your goodness.
Photo by Timothy Eberly
Photo by Tim Mossholder