Putting the Comfort and Joy Back Into Holiday Meals

Seven Tips to Tone Down the Stress of Holiday Meals

Isn’t it amazing how the holidays bring out the worst in us—especially family gatherings? No wonder they make such perfect fodder for movies!

While there is undoubtedly a whole passel of psychological triggers that set off the fireworks around this time of year, stress surely exaggerates the display. That’s probably why so many articles address this insidious guest, who can quickly make mincemeat of what should be a happy and comforting time of year.

So in the spirit of happier and saner holiday gatherings, this article series offers a few secrets (seven, to be exact) for toning down the stress around one of the biggest stressors of all: holiday meal making.

Stress-Reducing Secret No. 1: Don’t Get Locked in a “Last-Minute Pressure Cooker” There’s nothing like the last minute when it comes to inducing high levels of stress. It’s a horrible time to do anything, whether writing a term paper or deciding what to eat. The pressure of last minute action shuts down the part of the brain that can calmly and creatively deal with a situation. Instead, we go into survival mode, where the brain focuses solely on how to get out of a jam in the fastest way possible.

Decisions do get made, but the process is hardly fun and the results are usually less than inspired—just the opposite of what we crave at this time of year. Who doesn’t want to flip through some holiday magazines and slobber over the gorgeous pictures of inventive sweet potatoes dishes and to-die-for variations on pumpkin pie? So take the time to enjoy doing that, but not two days before Thanksgiving. Do it NOW!

This is a reminder that, before you know it, Thanksgiving week will arrive along with its attendant panic for non-planners.

Here’s another piece of advice so planning doesn’t become stressful in and of itself: Soften your expectations. In other words, go right ahead and slobber over that inventive sweet potato dish, but then honestly assess whether you have the time, skills and energy to pull it off without undue stress.

Bear in mind that planning ahead can make a lot of things possible that might not otherwise be doable. For instance, many more complex dishes can be made over two or three days if you know what you’re making and you’ve done the shopping.

Even with the best time management, however, a dish may be just too much. So skip it and don’t feel badly for a minute! There are hundreds of great Thanksgiving recipes out there. Find one that will be fun to make, but not overwhelming—or stressful. Alternatively, take a familiar recipe and just “dress it up,” Secret No. 4.

Coming up over the next week:

PLUS!  Want to find, learn and practice some great holiday recipes?  Check out my Healthy and Inspired, Holiday Cooking Classes.  Doesn’t matter if you live near or far, the classes are offered over the phone!  If you live in the Denver metro area, you can join in one of the live classes.  Click here for all the details.

4 Responses

  1. […] Stress-Reducing Secret No. 1: Don’t Get Caught in the “Last-Minute Pressure Cooker” […]


  2. […] Stress-Reducing Secret No. 1: Don’t Get Caught in the “Last-Minute Pressure Cooker” […]


  3. […] Stress-Reducing Secret No. 1: Don’t Get Caught in the “Last-Minute Pressure Cooker” […]


  4. […] Stress-Reducing Secret No. 1: Don’t Get Caught in the “Last-Minute Pressure Cooker” […]


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