Eight Ways to Take the Stress Out of Holiday Get-Togethers

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In just a few days, many of us will be gathered around holiday tables to celebrate the season. And some of us will be hosting those celebrations!

Hosting can be stressful. You have a lot of responsibilities. But there are ways to make hosting easier. Moreover, it can actually be fun and collaborative.

Here are some ways to take the stress out of your holiday gatherings, and enhance everyone’s well-being.

Newport Academy Well-Being Resources: Holiday Stress

Create an atmosphere you enjoy.

You’re hosting, so do it your way! Instead of trying to satisfy the many different opinions of your guests, put together your favorite kind of party. You get to decide:

  • What music to play
  • What’s on the menu
  • Which guests to invite
  • The schedule of the day or evening
  • How to arrange the décor and lighting in the room.

 Ask your guests to help.

Guests love to pitch in and get involved. Thus, you might ask everyone to bring their favorite sweet treat for a dessert bar. Or, plan a game night and have each guest bring a game they love.

Jeffrey Zurofsky, Newport Academy’s Culinary Program Director, says he often asks his guests to help out with setting and decorating the holiday table. “One person brings flowers, another brings candles, and someone else makes the centerpiece,” Jeffrey says.

Newport Academy Well-Being Resources: Holiday Stress

Invite friends to join the family.

Celebrating with family can be wonderful. However, family conflicts can also arise, especially if you don’t see each other regularly during the rest of the year. As a result, the holiday table can become a place of tension.

Working out family conflicts is essential. But a meal or party isn’t usually the best place to do that. Instead, mix it up and ease any interpersonal family stress by inviting friends to join the celebration. Choose people who make you feel comfortable and who you enjoy being around.

Furthermore, having new people at the party will also be interesting for your family members. Plus, it means everyone will be on good behavior as they get to know each other!

Newport Academy Well-Being Resources: Holiday Stress

Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Your holiday meal doesn’t have to look like the cover of a food magazine. Instead of focusing on what other people might expect, make dishes you love to cook and eat.

And, if it doesn’t turn out well, how bad can it be? Jeffrey says, “I take the pressure off by imagining the worst-case scenario: You have to order pizza and eat it on paper plates. That’s okay—everyone loves pizza!”

And remember, what matters most is the context in which we eat the meal. When people are having a good time in a beautiful setting, the food will taste good, too.

Newport Academy Well-Being Resources: Holiday Stress

Do a group practice of intention setting.

As a group, you can look back on the year and look ahead to the year to come. Then, everyone can take a few moments to silently think about what they’d like to bring into their lives. Next, go around the room to share a little bit about your intention. Saying something out loud helps to make it feel more real.

Furthermore, you might find that several of you have the same intention. Consequently, you can support each other in making it happen.

When we craft intentions, it helps us zero in on what we want more of in our life.

Read “How to Make Positive Change: The Power of Intentions.”

Practice gratitude.

Before you dig into the holiday meal, give thanks in whatever way feels right to you. For example, you might want to express gratitude for each other’s presence in your lives.

Moreover, you can give thanks for those who contributed to the healthy, delicious food you’re about to eat. That includes the environment that allowed the vegetables and fruit to grow, the people who cultivated them, even the animals who provided the meat you are eating.

“Gratitude is a great way to set a positive tone for the meal,” Jeffrey says. “Starting with gratitude subtly discourages people from complaining or bringing up negative, divisive topics.”

Newport Academy Well-Being Resources: Holiday Stress

Learn more about each other.

Try going beyond small talk to learn more about what’s important to the people you love. Go around the table, taking turns answering a question that reveals something deeper about each of you. Here are a few questions you could try:

  • What have you done recently to serve others, and why?
  • Which activity makes you feel most like yourself?
  • For self-care, what is your favorite practice?
  • How do you stay healthy and happy during the winter season?
  • When are you most in the zone?
  • In the last year, what is one small thing that made you proud of yourself, maybe something that no one else would have noticed?

Newport Academy Well-Being Resources: Holiday Stress

Listen mindfully.

No matter who you are talking to at a get-together—a stranger or your closest relative—let every conversation be an opportunity to listen mindfully.

That means focusing fully on the person you’re talking with. In other words, you’re not looking at what else is going on in the room or just waiting until it’s your turn to speak.

As a result, the other person feels truly heard. There is no gift as great as your full attention.

May your holiday celebrations be full of connection and caring!

Newport Academy Well-Being Resources: Holiday Stress