How to Host Thanksgiving with A Lot Less Stress

How to Host Thanksgiving with A Lot Less Stress

“If you do want to host Thanksgiving…but are worried about the mental cost, just stick with me. I’ll get you through it.”


How do you host Thanksgiving with a lot less stress?

If you’re like me, you enjoy hosting Thanksgiving, but there’s at least a bit of dread that comes with it. How many people will come this year? What dishes should I make? How should I cook the turkey? Will I be able to go all day without throat punching someone (that’s a whole other blog post)?

Every year I contemplate whether I should do it again. Do I really want to go through what I went through last year? The answer is yes, I want to host, but no, I don’t want to stress out over it.

First of all, if you don’t enjoy hosting, then don’t do it. The holidays are a time that you deserve to enjoy. If hosting isn’t your thing, let someone else be in charge. If you do want to host Thanksgiving but are worried about the mental cost, just stick with me. I’ll get you through it.

The key is planning ahead. Here’s how to host Thanksgiving with a lot less stress:

Make a Menu

Make a menu at least a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving so that you have time to mull it over and make changes. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving day and willy-nilly the dish ideas that have hung around in your head. Write them down and write each ingredient you need to complete the dish. Include everything the main dish, side dishes, appetizers, desserts, and drinks. I even like to add a special dish I know the kids will eat because they’re not really a fan of most Thanksgiving food. Personally, I really like to use Pinterest to help with my Thanksgiving plans. When I’m ready to cook, all I have to do is look at my Pinterest app. I have a great Thanksgiving board here. The Sweet Potato Casserole is everyone’s favorite!

Make a Guest List and Delegate Dishes

Now make a guest list and delegate dishes to some or all of your guests. Make them bring things you don’t want to bother with. Don’t take a wild guess about how many people are going to show up. Call or text everyone to confirm their spot and give at least some of them a food assignment so you’re not left to do all the work. I really like to delegate desserts and drinks because that’s something I just don’t care to cook or worry about buying. Uncle Ed can bring store-bought pumpkin pie and that’s just fine with me.

Turn Your Menu Into a Grocery List

Then turn the rest of your menu into a grocery list. Whatever Uncle Ed or Grandma Suzy isn’t bringing, is your responsibility to serve. Don’t go to the store and try to guess what you need because you’ll just end up making a Wal-Mart run the day of. Put the ingredients you need for each dish on your list. Don’t forget non-food items, too. Do you plan on using real dishes or are you paper-fabulous, like me? Do you need utensils, napkins, decorations? Whatever floats your Thanksgiving boat…get it.

Don’t Feel Bad About Store Bought Food or Paper Plates

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT feel bad about your store-bought apple pie or extra durable Thanksgiving paper plates and utensils. Washing dishes after you eat a huge meal sucks. You’re already going to have a ton of pots and pans to clean. Don’t you dare feel bad about going paper-fabulous this year. These days, you can buy plates, napkins, utensils, and cups that are super cute! I’m paper-fabulous every year and proud.

Make a Plan

Make a plan for Thanksgiving day. How many seats do you need? What decorations will be set up? When is dinner? When will guests arrive? How long will each dish take to make and what pan are you going to cook it in? What method will you use to cook the turkey and how long will it take? There’s been a couple of years where the day of Thanksgiving I realized I didn’t have enough pans to make all the food I had planned on. This resulted in an emergency trip to my mother-in-law’s house. I don’t recommend it.

Prep Food the Day Before

Prep food the day before. I can’t say this enough. Don’t wake up on Thanksgiving and think, okay now it’s time to get started! A couple of hours in and you’ll realize, holy crap I have so much to get done! The day before Thanksgiving I make sure desserts are done, appetizers are ready to set out, and anything that goes straight to the oven (like this awesome Sweet Potato Casserole) is ready to stick in. This makes the next day so much calmer.

Give Turkey Enough Time to Thaw

If you buy a fresh turkey, great! If not make sure you buy a frozen one at least a week out (so that you get a good pick) and give it a few days (depending on the size) to thaw in the fridge or in cold water. You can find guidance on how long to thaw a turkey here. In the past I have waited too long to buy the turkey, making it hard to find one big enough and not giving myself enough time to let it thaw. Last year I cut it close. Never again!

Start Cooking the Turkey Early

Finally, give yourself plenty of time to cook the turkey, especially if you’re not experienced. Don’t worry about being done too early, it’s way better than being done too late. Give yourself a 2-3 hour time cushion before guests are scheduled to eat. The turkey can sit in the oven or roasting pan on a low temp to stay warm if needed, but if you realize your turkey is not done when it should be, it throws everything out of whack and leaves you swearing that you’ll never host again.


I hope these suggestions help you have the most stress-free Thanksgiving yet. Did these tips help you? What could I add to the list? Comment below and tell me!


But wait…there’s more.


Subscribe to The Wiser Life today (go to side or the bottom of this page) and  I’ll send you a free Thanksgiving Dinner Planner 2-page printable!



It’s not good enough to think about your Thanksgiving plan, you need to write it down for it to be effective. My printable includes space to write your menu, your guest list, your delegated dishes, your grocery list and more!

Keep a copy of the printable for yourself so that every year you can use it to keep Thanksgiving as stress-free as possible.


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25 Positive Ways to Cope with Stress

25 Positive Ways to Cope with Stress

We all have stress in our lives. The question is, how do you cope with it?

Many of us cope with stress in unhealthy ways. We eat bags of chips, watch hours of TV, scroll through our Facebook feed continuously, or even resort to medicating ourselves with unhealthy substances. We find any means necessary to distract us from our problems. My distraction of choice is Netlix, milk, and a package of Oreos. Who needs wine when you can get milk drunk?

We need to be distracted from our problems for a short period of time. But instead of ignoring them completely, and continuing habits that add to the stress (Oreos always go straight to my ass) , what we really need is a healthy break. Instead of indulging in mindless bad habits, it’s important to come up with coping tools that will give our spirit a break and allow us to revisit our issues with an open heart and clear mind.

Here is a list of 25 positive ways to cope with stress. Hopefully you can add a few of these to your healthy-coping toolbox.

1. Journal

Many people like to write but don’t know what to write. If that’s your issue check out my Journal for Wisdom Wednesdays! Every Wednesday I post a new prompt to help you dig deeper into the why behind your why.  Like, am I eating these Oreos because I’m hungry or because I’m worried there’s no other way to achieve that happy and full feeling? The next time you pass by the stationary section at Target, go ahead and pick up one of those adorable journals you’re always attracted to but never buy. Journaling is a healthy exercise and a wise cost!

2. Stretch

Stretching is a wonderful way to relieve stress and tension in the body and mind. Stretching is also a way to tune in to your body and really discover what parts of it need relief. Personally, I think stretching is a great way to start your day. Remember when we always had to stretch before activities in PE? Why wouldn’t we stretch as a way to prepare ourselves for the day? Get the blood flowing! Expand the functions of your muscles, and enjoy the great feeling you get while doing it.

3. Exercise

Exercising isn’t my favorite activity either, but hopefully we will learn to love it together. I’ve figured out the trick is finding a movement activity you like to do. That way it’s not like you’re forcing yourself to spend time on something you don’t want to do. Punishment exercise really isn’t necessary. Does anyone really enjoy cycling class, where you basically pedal until you die? Maybe you like swimming, walking, hiking, bike riding, or climbing! It can be as simple as moving around your house. Cleaning counts! I am exhausted after cleaning my son’s room! Even 10 minutes of movement per day makes a huge difference in your health and mood.

4. Create

Being creative doesn’t mean you have to craft, paint, or draw. Create anything you want. A website. A book. A piece of furniture. A road trip. A list. A plan. A schedule. A recipe. What are you good at? What kind of creation gives you joy? Being creative is so good for our soul and gets our brain juices flowing.

5. Cook

Some people enjoy this, others not so much. I honestly get sick and tired of making the same dinners night after night. I think it’s fun to look up a new recipe, find the ingredients at the store, and get to cooking! It’s a creative and fun way to focus on something that’s both new and, depending on what you cook, nutritional! If you’re really brave, get the kids involved. Kids not wanting to try new foods is often a huge source of stress for parents (at least it is for me) but many times they will be more willing to try something new if they’ve been involved in the cooking process.

6. Meditate

Meditation doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. Check out my first Mindful Mondays’ post about beginners meditation to get started. I’m a beginner, too. If I can do it, anyone can! In the beginning all you really have to do is sit still, be quiet, and focus on your breath. Give it a try and practice daily for amazing results.

7. Be with Friends

Friends are an awesome way to relieve stress. You get to take turns bitching, relate to each other’s problems, and secretly make fun of other people, all while eating tacos and drinking wine. If you don’t have friends you enjoy spending time with, get out there and find some. Even if you got lucky and married your best friend, it’s just not quite the same as having a BFF outside the home that always has your back.

8. Do Good for Others

Sometimes the best way to stop feeling sorry for ourselves is to get out in the world and help people who have REAL problems. Donate food to the local food bank, volunteer for your church’s holiday program, read a story at your local elementary school, or stop to say hello and give $10 bucks to the homeless guy you always see on the corner. Simply do something to make others smile. It will help put a smile back on your own face.

9. Learn to Say No

Sometimes you just have to say NO. I know for some people this is really hard. You’re an awesome person. People trust and rely on you to get certain things done. However, sometimes our plates are just too full. Putting more on it than you can handle doesn’t help you or the people you’re trying to help. A good way to help this is to start saying no to all the things that don’t bring you joy. Don’t worry about being such a people-pleaser. Good people will honestly respect you for it and think you must be kind of important to be so busy.

10. Read

Nothing compares to a good book. Read something that motivates or inspires you. Read something that teaches you something you’ve always wanted to learn. People who say they don’t like to read, just haven’t read anything they like. There are as many books out there as there are meal recipes. If you begin to try them all, you’re bound to like some. Reading reduces stress because it allows you to relate to characters like yourself, learn and get inspired.

11. Organize Your Space

Look around you. Is your physical space a complete mess? Take time to get it together. For some people, organization is zen. If your space is cluttered, most likely, your life is too. Start with one room at a time, or even one corner at a time. Check out my Getting Organized board on Pinterest to make organization fun!

12. Finish a Project

Have a To-Do list that still needs to be done? Pick one and get started! It feels great to finally finish something you’ve been meaning to do FOREVER. Paint the guest bedroom, fix the sink, get the oil changed, or plan your yearly holiday gift list. Even simple tasks, when completed, help clear space in our minds and relieve us of some of the overwhelm.

13. Go For a Walk

Walking is an easy form of stress release that most people can do. Walk at your local trail or hit the track at the gym with your headphones. Don’t think of it as exercise this time, think of it as your special time to think peaceful thoughts and clear out the mental clutter. Walking alone creates a special time for you to organize the thoughts in your brain and come up with effective solutions.

14. Listen to Music

I miss my teenager days where I had the time to just lounge in bed for hours, stare at the ceiling and blast my favorite Lincoln Park CD. If possible, make the time to do this again. Put your favorite song list on repeat, rest your head on the pillow, close your eyes, and imagine yourself rocking out on stage. Depending on how your day went, this could turn into napping instead, but whatever your body needs.

15. Take a Drive

Nothing quite does it like a drive in the country or around town, all alone, with the music up too loud to hear your thoughts. When life gets to be too much, hop in the car and get lost. Drive past your childhood home, notice new businesses that are popping up around town, read vanity plates, or people watch at a red light. If you want to be really fun, do something weird (like singing or dancing) and smile at other drivers who notice. But remember, no texting.

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16. Have Alone Time

Do something alone. Take a drive (see above), take a bath, get under the covers and contemplate life, have a dance party, binge on Netflix, see a movie, read a book, but do it ALONE. Some people have this down pat, but for some others, like me, it’s a struggle to be alone. I’ve got three kids and a husband. I love them all dearly. But sometimes mamma just wants to be with herself.

17. Color

Color, and color some more! Who said coloring was just for kids? Personally, I love adult coloring books. I also really love Lisa Frank coloring books. Coloring is a creative and focused way to clear your mind of the stressful clutter. Do it alone or use it as a way to spend time with the kids. Don’t use crappy markers or crayons either. Head over to Target and buy the good stuff so you’ll enjoy it more.

18. Just Breathe

That’s it. Just breathe. I know, we all breathe, every second, of everyday. But I mean really breathe. Slow down, calm your mind, and just focus on taking slow…deep…breaths. Doing this allows you to suddenly be more present in the moment and able to focus on the task at hand. It relaxes your body and calms your heart-rate. Taking in more oxygen gives you an extra burst of energy and helps to quiet your negative thoughts.

19. Talk it Out

Sometimes all we really need is a good talk. Have a good conversation with your BFF or spouse. Connect with your parents, if you haven’t in awhile. Make time to talk to your kids about what’s going on in their world. If you want to get really serious, meet up with a counselor. Counseling is not for crazy people. It’s for all people who have problems, which means it’s for everyone.

20. Get Outside

Nature is the foundation of who we are. It not only feels good to get outside, it’s actually beneficial to our bodies. Breathe in fresh air. Spend time noticing trees, flowers, animals, sounds. Take in the true miracle that is life. Allow your body to absorb the sunlight. Doing this will reduce your stress, give you more of the happy feeling, and bring you back to the present moment.

21. Cuddle

Cuddle with your kids. Cuddle with your lover. Give hugs and kisses to anyone who will accept them! Physical affection releases hormones that reduce stress. Let your partner know you’re feeling especially down and need extra attention. Practice giving more affection than you normally do to special people in your life. People are caught off guard at first, but eventually they love it.

22. Take a Nap

Take a nap, sleep in, or go to bed early. Don’t wait until you feel better. Sleep makes you feel better. Whoever said, “Don’t go to bed angry.” must never have tried it. If you’re upset, if it’s been a long day, if you can’t come to an agreement with your significant other, do yourself a favor and take a nap. Or go to sleep for rest of the day. Every problem needs a break! Come back to it in the morning when the feelings aren’t so harsh.

23. Get Up On Time

Do you always head off to work in a hurry and in a mess? Get up on time and get moving. Stop being the person who hits the Snooze button. Make a commitment that you won’t even stay in bed long enough to think about how much you don’t want to get up yet. When the buzzer goes off, immediately sit up. If you have to, put the alarm on the other side of the room so you have to get up. Enjoy the time you have in the morning. Have a healthier breakfast, enjoy some coffee or herbal tea, and do a little stretching. Morning rituals are worth waking up for and will better prepare you for the events of your day.

24. Be Proactive

Be proactive about your life. Sometimes it really helps just to plan our day, or week, or month ahead. Is part of your stress related to the fact that you’re never ready, always late, or usually unprepared? Complete easy tasks that will make the following day run smoother. Set out your clothes. Check your calendar. Give yourself a heads up on the events to come in the next week or month so you don’t feel surprised. Make a to-do list. Being proactive reduces stress by preparing you for things to come.

25. Plan Your Future

Some of us really enjoy planning. It’s fun and relieves stress because it’s a way to organize the huge amount of information and ideas in our brains. For some of us, things don’t happen if we don’t write them down. Set daily, weekly, and yearly goals. Jot down ideas about your new business venture. Write down your current big life goals and the action steps needed to reach them. There are tons of planners to help you out. Where do you want to be in the next year? What obstacles might keep you from getting there? Get it down on paper and plan it out.


This is just a few of the many, many, positive coping tools we can all use to handle stress. I would love to hear about your positive coping tools of choice below! What should I add to this list?

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