4 Tips to Conquer Holiday Meal Stress

4 Tips to Conquer Holiday Meal StressIt isn’t a dish served best hot or cold, but we do get heaping portions of it every holiday season – stress. What is it about the idea of sitting down with friends and family for that iconic holiday meal that fills so many of us with apprehension?

The stress of the big meal is often enough to make many people throw their hands up and quit. At Garrett Counseling, we have you covered with our top four tips, including some quotes from our counselors, on how to reduce stress during the “big meal.”

Say No To Toxic Situations

“If it’s toxic don’t go. It’s not your job to make someone else happy; it’s your job to protect your mental health. “ – Matthew Shipp, ALC #3494  (under the supervision of Danielle Napier, LPC-S #3015)

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we often forget why we are striving to make these big, meal centered gatherings happen in the first place. If you find yourself dreading the holiday meal and the conflict it may inevitably bring to your home – don’t be afraid to ask yourself: “Is it worth it?” and “Is this a situation where I may have to lovingly detach myself from the situation?”

Take A Mental Health Break

“When you are feeling overwhelmed, try to take a mental break by going outside for a walk. It is good to have a plan ahead of time for what you might do in case things get too intense.” – Miriam Comer, ALC #C3712A (under the supervision of Ashley Jones, LPC #2856), NBCC

Do not forsake your self-care routine in effort to squeeze in more holiday prep time. You look forward to that hot cup of coffee and quiet time in the morning, that daily walk, or that hot bath at night. One might argue that these things are part of what helps you get through the day. Why is it our first inclination to cut out these simple self-care tasks in order to have 20 extra minutes to dedicate to some menial holiday task? Your time is valuable and self-care is a non-negotiable part of that time.

Set Boundaries And Have A Plan

“Have a game plan. If you’re hosting, make sure you have a strategy in place for cooking, and time things so that you don’t have to worry about everything at once. If you’re visiting and stressed about spending time with family members, have a firm time to leave, and maybe someone to sit next to that’s slightly more tolerable. The more you have planned in advance, the less you have to stress over while figuring it out on the fly.” – Ben Lighter, ALC #C3775A (under the supervision of Megan Campbell #3120)

If you’re dreading the family gatherings that come with the holiday season – chances are, boundaries are an issue in your tribe. Boundaries are an essential part of any healthy relationship. Remember: you’re allowed to have these boundaries – even with loved ones, even on the holidays. The stress of the unknown and the “on the fly” schedule only exacerbates the stress of the event. Using those aforementioned boundaries to time things, including visitation, can be a life saver.

Think About The Menu Ahead Of Time

“Helpful hint. Plan the menu from the day before the big day all the way through the weekend. Do this a week or more in advance. Keep the menu streamlined since more is not better. On the next trip to the grocery store, purchase all non-perishables. The car does not even have to be unloaded in one day. All perishables can then be bought just before the cooking gets started. Make a list of everything that can be done up to a week in advance, including cooking and freezing dishes. By spreading the work out over a week, the stress is lowered and the holiday is more fun. Reflect on past gatherings and make changes with trouble areas to avoid the repeat of that pattern. Spread out the chores and get everyone involved!” – Ginger Caudell, LPC

For some people, holiday stress comes from the meal itself. We’ve all seen the mass amounts of food prepared for this typical holiday meal, and can probably understand the stress surrounding that, but what about the immense pressure for this entire meal to be “homemade”? Or the stress accompanied with the unbridled chaos that is holiday meal shopping? Learn what works for you and your family, avoid repeating unhelpful patterns, and share the load! This will help avoid many hurt and overwhelmed feelings.

For more holiday advice from the Garrett Counseling team, check out this blog about mental health and the holiday season – it even includes two easy, festive recipes! If you are looking for a counselor to help you with the stress this season has brought you, Garrett Counseling has a team of counselors ready to work with you. Contact us today at (256) 239-5662 or by clicking here.


This article was written by Rachel Brewer, ALC #C3719A (under the supervision of Jay H. Byham, MS, LPC-S #0741). Learn more about Rachel here.

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