The Survival Guide You Need To Get You Through This Year’s Thanksgiving

Some helpful suggestions and tips to ensure your holiday is filled with all the fun and none of the headache.
11/14/2018 11:14am ET | Updated December 7, 2018
Uladzimir Zuyeu via Getty Images

The holidays are supposed to be a time of family, fun and relaxation. But if you’re on hosting duty this year, you know they can be anything but. Between keeping track of each family member’s food preferences and making sure every corner of your house is super-sparkling clean, the stress of playing chef, maid and hotel owner during the holidays can really take a toll on even the most gracious hosts.

To help take the pressure off, we teamed up with Sensodyne® Rapid Relief toothpaste and spoke to event planners, life coaches and family therapists to get their best hacks for hosting headaches. Here are their six best tips.

1. Plan ahead

“Hosting your family for the holiday season can be stressful, but it also can be fun. To mitigate energy depletion, create a game plan,” said Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, a strategist, author and success and wellness coach.

When it comes to cooking, Kennedy suggests prepping ahead of time, and making dishes that are easy to freeze and reheat the day of. This is especially key if you’re in charge of crafting a feast, as you’re likely not going to have the time (or the oven space!) to cook 15 different dishes from scratch on Thanksgiving day, even if you wake up really, really early.

Additionally, it’s important to make a plan to head off some of that inevitable family drama. Raffi Bilek, a family counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, said realistic expectations can do a lot to help holiday stress.

“Expect the expected,” he said. “When you are mentally prepared for the headaches coming your way, they’re easier to bear. Expecting [drama] to happen will make it more bearable, and it will also give you the chance to prepare appropriately.”

For instance, if you know mom and Aunt Lisa always bicker, seat them far away from one another. If your cousin’s partner is allergic to cats and you have one, make sure to cat-proof your house and find somewhere for your pet to stay for the day.

2. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Your friends and family have certain expectations for holiday food, so it’s typically not the time to try brand-new recipes.

People love classics, such as pigs in a blanket, at parties,” said Elana Karp, head chef and culinary co-founder at Plated. “It’s OK to give the people what they want!”

Hosting is stressful enough without having to listen to your loved ones complain about food you spent hours preparing. Stick with the traditional holiday fare, and leave the improv for your “Chopped” audition.

3. Stay sensitive to sensitivities

Cousin Annie has a gluten allergy, Grandma can’t eat dairy, Josh is a vegan and Mom’s tooth sensitivity makes cold drinks unbearable for her. Make note of all the food allergies and dietary restrictions your guests have, and try to make at least one dish that everyone can eat. Pick up some sensitivity relief toothpaste for mom beforehand, so she can enjoy your signature holiday cocktail without any discomfort. And when making a salad, set the cheese aside so that those who want it can sprinkle it on top at the end, but those who don’t eat it don’t have to painstakingly pick it out. Sure, it’s hard to cater to all your guest’s sensitivities, but doing so will make them feel truly welcome in your home. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

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4. Potluck it up

There is no rule that says the host should have to do everything themselves.

“Don’t take on all the cooking work yourself,” suggested Lindsey Nickel, a wedding and event planner and strategist. “Host a potluck event!”

If everyone brings one dish, the amount of time you’ll have to spend in the kitchen will be greatly reduced, and you’ll have more time to plan activities and seating arrangements.

5. Ditch the dishes

“There really is no reason to be whipping out your finest china,” said Caleb Backe, a health and wellness coach at Maple Holistics. “Not only will you cry when something inevitably breaks, but the number of dishes you’ll end up doing takes you away from your guests.”

Instead, Backe recommends using disposable dishes to cut down on the mess. Don’t want to add more paper to the landfill (or remember Styrofoam dishes, for that matter)? Snatch up a pack of eco-friendly and compostable plates, glasses and silverware, and you’ll be saving time on dish duty while looking out for the planet.

6. You’re not in this alone

All too often, hosts feel like they need to do everything for everyone, and they don’t take time for themselves. But life coach Jennifer Jakobsen recommends reaching out to guests for assistance instead of going it alone, whether it’s regarding cleaning, cooking or mitigating family interaction.

“Seriously, you just need to ask for help,” said Jakobsen. “Don’t assume people are going to just jump in and help with shopping, party prep and clean up. Often people want to help, but they just don’t know what to do.”

Additionally, it’s important to remember that “no” is a full sentence. If you don’t want Linda to bring all eight of her dogs, say no. If you can’t accommodate 12 overnight guests, say no. Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you have to cater to everyone’s whims and wishes. There is nothing rude about knowing your own boundaries. You’ll be a better host if you’re comfortable.

Life can be overwhelming at times — especially when you’re playing host for the holidays — but with just three days of twice-daily brushing, Sensodyne® Rapid Relief toothpaste takes care of the distracting pain that comes from having sensitive teeth, so both you and your guests can focus on nothing but enjoying your time together.

Words by Caroline Thompson