Next week’s Thanksgiving holiday marks the unofficial beginning to the holiday season. While many people welcome the opportunity to gather around the table with loved ones, others are dreading the day. In fact, one study sound that more than one in five people find Thanksgiving to be “extremely or very stressful” and love a few stress-busting tips.

Even the biggest Thanksgiving Day fans may be worrying about some aspect of the holiday. Maybe you’re trying to find a menu that covers different tastes and food allergies. Or, you’re hoping to avoid a heated political discussion among the in-laws like the one that erupted last year. Stress can affect more than just the big day. Unchecked stress can lead to muscle tension, chronic pain, shortness of breath, and a reduced immune response. You deserve better.

Let’s talk about some ways to cut down on Turkey Day stress and keep your cool when things get heated outside the kitchen.

Keep calm – you’re the host

What were you thinking when you offered to host the big family gathering? You’ve spent the last two weeks trying to figure out how you’re going to bake the cornbread souffle at the same time the turkey is roasting, and you’re still not sure if six pies and two cheesecakes will be enough for your teen-aged nephews. How can you make it easier on yourself and cut down on Thanksgiving stress?

Plan the menu in advance. Send an email out now to find out if there are any food allergies or ingredient considerations. That doesn’t mean you have to skip the traditional stuffing that Grandma always made. But if someone in your family has a gluten allergy, you may want to roast the stuffing in its own casserole dish instead of inside the turkey. Once you know what’s cooking, sit down and make a list of cooking times. That allows you to plan your prep schedule for the day.

Take advantage of all your kitchen tools. Pull out your slow cooker, pressure cooker or air fryer, and look at converting some of your traditional holiday recipes for those appliances. Don’t forget the outdoor grills – today’s recipes include plenty of options for main dishes and sides done on the grill, smoker, or flattop grill.

Delegate. Don’t be afraid to ask guests to pitch in, especially if they’re asking for a specific side. If someone doesn’t think Thanksgiving is complete without macaroni and cheese, let them bring their version to the table.

Outsource. Show us the Thanksgiving rule book that says every element of the Thanksgiving dinner must be homemade. Buy your pies at the local bakery or grocery store. It’s even OK to swing by a restaurant to buy a few sides if that will cut down on your holiday stress.

Avoiding conflict during the big day

Are you worried that your lovely plans will be shattered by ugly talk at the table? Be proactive now and ask your guests to agree to leave their arguments outside. Most people will honor your request. But if Uncle Phil insists on making a passive aggressive joke between the main course and dessert, feel free to call him out and remind him of the agreement. Above all, don’t argue. People rarely win these discussions.

But what if Uncle Phil takes aim at someone you love? Be kind but firm. Tell Uncle Phil that his comment isn’t appropriate, and reinforce your support of the family member who’s being targeted. It’s one thing to deflect a comment about who’s the greatest quarterback of all time. When the comments become personal, you may have to speak up and ask for a time out.

Tips for surviving when you don’t feel like celebrating

Thanksgiving isn’t happy for everyone. Many people struggle over the holidays. They may be missing loved ones. They may be facing financial struggles. They may have mental health or substance misuse issues that are exacerbated over the holidays when the rest of the world seems to be doing just fine. How can you cut down on holiday-related feelings of sadness or stress?

Acknowledge your feelings. If the holidays are making you stressed or sad, be honest with yourself. You don’t have to pretend that everything is OK. You don’t have to smile when you’re crying inside.

Step away from social media. Too much screen time already impacts mental wellness. If you’re struggling, you don’t want to compare your life to the idealized versions you’re going to see on social media over the holidays.

Reach out for help. Don’t try to push through the difficult times on your own. Help is available for people who are facing life’s challenges, including holiday-related stress. The Hancock Health Connection Center can connect you and your family wit local service providers in healthcare, mental health, substance abuse, senior services, family services and other social services. Our support navigators will listen to your story and help you find local resources who can make life a little easier.

Don’t let stress ruin your Thanksgiving. Reach out to the Hancock Health Connection Center at 317-468-4231.