Dr Scott B. McCabe

Have a Smooth trip on the Turkey Trail

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and although it is meant to be a time to focus on and appreciate the good things in our lives, these pleasant thoughts are too often interrupted by the stress of the holiday.  Here are some tips for handling common stresses that appear around this time.


  • • The Turkey Trail- Perhaps the most significant stressor for young families is how to divide the time between all of the people who want to see you.  While it is great to be so loved, pressure from your own parents and in-laws can make you feel stuck in an impossible position where it feels you can’t make anyone happy.  It is a very important and normal transition in life to go from having your parents as the primary family unit to having your own partner and children as your family.  Though this transition can cause some growing pains, if everyone is able to recognize that changes need to occur and that a young family needs to determine it’s own needs and build their own traditions, it can be easier to handle.  For the older generation- recognize that this change needs to happen and give your grown children the OK to make whatever arrangements they need.  For grown children- recognize that the change may be hard for your parents but communicate your needs to them in a sensitive and caring manner.  Allow everyone to feel recognized and loved in the process of making these decisions.
  • • The Hayride- Sometimes visiting family also means traveling a far distance from your home.  To make the road trip more tolerable- plan ahead to ensure the ride is as safe and efficient as possible.  For example, be prepared for emergencies or delays with fully-charged cell phones and bring drinks and snacks so you don’t need to make as many stops or spend more money than necessary.  Make the car trip an event in and of itself by playing games, listening to fun music, and enjoying the time with your family.  Traffic is uncontrollable, so if you find yourself in a jam, recognize that you cannot change it.  Your family will be happy when you arrive, no matter what time it is. 
  • Family Affairs- As much as most of us are thankful for and love our family members, getting everyone together can be stressful.  The threat of conflict can lead some to feel nervous and uncomfortable through an entire family event.  To make family interactions more enjoyable, first conduct an honest assessment of your family and keep your expectations in-check.  Do you know that your mother-in-law always sets out to say something disapproving?  Do you know that Cousin Jack will do anything he can to be the centre of attention?  Know and prepare for yourself for these things so then they are not such a big deal when they happen.  Do not expect anything more or different from your family than what they are.  If you can do this successfully, you may even be able to have a sense of humour as you watch the characters in your family perform just as expected.
  • Strategic Formations- In most families, there are certain individuals or combinations of individuals who are likely to make a comment or bring up a topic that will result in awkwardness or even outright conflict.  One way to avoid these situations is by putting a seating plan into place for the Thanksgiving meal.  Place individuals who you know will butt heads at opposite ends of the table, and put those people who may offend others near those you know they get along with or who are more laid-back and tolerant of the behaviour.  Having the children in the family create name cards for the table is also a wonderful way to entertain them prior to the meal. 
  • The “Hostess with the Mostest”- Perhaps the most stressful role in a family Thanksgiving is that of being the host.  The stress of inviting a large group of people to your home and providing them with a wonderful meal can be enough to overwhelm most people.  The key to managing this stress is time management and asking for help.  Plan ahead as to how you are going to complete all of the tasks you need to do.  Are there things you can get done the day before the event so there is no need to worry the day of?  Can you ask others to supply parts of the meal so you do not need to cook the entire thing?  It is also important to manage your expectations  and remember th e big picture.  Is it really THAT big of a deal if the apple pie gets a little more brown than you’d like?  Six months from now, will you still be worried about those lumps in the mashed potatoes?

The biggest key to managing holiday stress is keeping managing expectations of yourself and others.  We are all human and there is only so much time in this one holiday weekend.  So take a deep breath and accept yourself and your family as you are.

By: Allison Singh

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Dr. Scott B. McCabe
February 24, 2018
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