5 ways to avoid stress while hosting Thanksgiving, according to an expert

Thanksgiving has been stressful for as long as it has existed.

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Thanksgiving has been stressful for as long as it has existed.
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Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images
  • Thanksgiving can be stressful – and hosting adds yet another layer of pressure.
  • Insider spoke with stress management and mindfulness expert Dr. Kathleen Hall to get some tips on how to minimize stress this Thanksgiving.
  • It’s in your best interest to pre-plan as much as possible, including letting attendees know which talking points are off-limits.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Stress can lead to plenty of unpleasant side effects, like chronic diseases, skin problems, high blood pressure, and lower immune function, among others – but with Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaching, it can feel almost unavoidable.

Insider spoke with stress management expert Dr. Kathleen Hall as part of her partnership with La Quinta by Wyndham to get some advice on how to avoid stress during Thanksgiving, and she shared her five top tips.


Get a holiday buddy to ease the stress of hosting.

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Thanksgiving dinner.
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Granger Wootz/Getty Images

According to Hall, paring up with a partner is imperative, so you’re not in charge of making sure that everyone and everything is running smoothly.

“I believe in the buddy system. If you’re having it at your house, have a sister, friend, a mother, a relative – somebody” to help with the general atmosphere, she told Insider.


Make sure you know who’s coming ahead of time.

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Cheers.
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Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

Pre-planning is key to avoiding stress, so you know exactly what to expect and so you can anticipate any potential problems.

“Find out who’s coming,” said Hall. This can help you establish boundaries.

As Insider previously reported, it is possible to have a “social allergy” to someone you do not like. Hosts can minimize this issue by attempting to keep people who don’t get along apart.


Create a seating chart to avoid any potential conflicts.

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The Raymond Baker Family of 18 members celebrate Thanksgiving.
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Bettman/Getty Images

Creating a seating chart can also help keep stress at bay.

From “playing music all the time,” to “too much activity, or not enough, someone’s gonna start complaining” about what’s going on around them, Hall told Insider, so try to keep people who antagonize each other apart during dinner.


Make it clear which topics are off-limits.

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Immigrants from Central America and Mexico talk about President-elect Donald Trump at a Thanksgiving dinner in 2016.
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John Moore/Getty Images

“Pre-talks can also be a very important part of it,” Hall said. Asking guests nicely to stay away from certain issues can be a game-changer. “Don’t act like a deer in headlights [if] it happens,” Hall continued. If you have conversations beforehand, you can point to that, and make it clear that your guests agreed to keep it friendly.


Devise a system for monitoring the events of the night.

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Turkeys.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Once you have your buddy (or buddies), give them a task to do. Tell them to monitor the party, the energy and vibe – and create a scale to identify when it gets a little out of control. Hall suggests using one to five, with one being “chill,” and five being “impossible to deal with.”

“Tell [your buddies] that if you notice anybody over a two, come tell me. Because then it needs to be managed. I believe in putting a number on things because people don’t really do well when you say, ‘Hey, if it gets a little hairy, call me.’ They need to have a specific [number]. When I start feeling that queasiness, I need to go report it,” Hall said.