DEAR KRISTIN: I’m from a very large family; four sisters and two brothers. We all have our own families and, fortunately, we all still live within driving distance of each other. In the last couple of years, we’ve started this wonderful new Thanksgiving tradition where we all come together the day after Thanksgiving for coffee and dessert. It’s great because it allows us to spend time with our own families on the big day, but still come together as a group the day after, under far less stressful conditions. (Who can mess up cake and coffee, right?)
The problem is that it’s finally come my turn to host, and even though it’s just dessert, I’m super-stressed. I read your column regularly because you always guide your readers toward tranquility and calm, even in the midst of chaos. It’s my turn now: How do I approach this “Day After Thanksgiving Dessert” with joy instead of jangled nerves? I’m blessed to have a family I love. I don’t want my stress to compromise that love in any way. Help. -- TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED
DEAR BLESSED: I love that you acknowledge how blessed you are to have a loving family, and I deeply respect your vital awareness that you are “too blessed to be stressed.” This should tell you something important: That your ability to control your stress is, well, totally within your control. Embrace both of these things head-on: Stand firmly in the love you feel for your family; let that love strengthen and propel you, and use that love to rebuff and rebuke the stress when it tries to encroach.
Also remember the original goal of this “Day After Thanksgiving Dessert.” You said yourself that the reason you gather after the Big Day is to avoid stress. So don’t block your own purpose by allowing stress to seep in!
Consider a couple of holiday stress-busters. They always work for me:
Talk to your stress. Imagine a big, ugly wall of stress standing right in front of you, blocking your path, and tell it -- out loud -- “There is no room in my life for you today. I hold dominion over you, and you are not welcome in my home or my heart. Get out.”
Prepare ahead of time. Even though it’s just coffee and dessert, make sure everything’s ready before your family arrives. Focus on the physicality of the event itself: Dessert plates out? Coffee ready to brew? If you know Aunt Lois is more comfortable in a high-back chair because of her sciatica, have that chair ready for her when she arrives! You can’t predict every eventuality, of course, but thoughtful preparation enhances your capacity to enjoy your family.
Find Your Inner Smile. Take a few deep breaths before your family arrives. Center down. Ground yourself. Visualize your smile (and your confidence) growing brighter and brighter inside of you. When you wear this inner smile deep inside, it will, eventually and inevitably, move outward and show on your face and in your actions. The power of positive energy is transformative.
Stay cool. When Cousin Curtis spills his cup of coffee all over your white sofa, stay cool. Staying cool shouldn’t render you inactive, though: Clean up the spill quickly and efficiently, tapping into that inner smile the whole time. In any social event, the host sets the standard and the mood -- and when mishaps occur, remember that guests will always watch to see how the host reacts. Even if they act like they’re not observing you, they are. So if a chaotic scene erupts, keep cool. Rebuke chaos and create calm instead. Set the tone.
Remain present. The thing about stress is that it’s very good and knocking us out of our present moment. Your stress wants you to focus on it, rather than on the beauty of the “right now” moment. Don’t let your anxiety about all the bad things that could happen in the next minute steel the joy of what’s actually happening right now. Time moves fast. A moment turns to a memory in the twinkling of an eye, so make each moment count. Stand in the presence of now.
It's the only place you can be.