Published on 11/22/22

Five tips to stress less over the holidays

By Alexis Roberts, MaryBeth Hornbeck
UGA Extension specialists offer five tips to help create a less stressful holiday meal. Remember, the traditional turkey your family has always enjoyed will round out your holiday meal much better than a half-frozen, half-cooked, deep-fried turkey would.

Does the stress of preparing for holidays hit you like a sledgehammer? Are you Googling new recipes the night before the feast to find the perfect sides? Does a relative want Grandma’s cornbread stuffing instead of the Stouffer’s you had planned to prepare? 

Let’s face it: The holidays may look picture-perfect on social media, but in reality, they may not be so full of harmony and smiles. Hosting a Thanksgiving meal means giving careful attention to all the details, like the guest list, place settings, menu, and time of day, in addition to the cooking, cleaning and entertaining.

Now is the perfect time to take action to alleviate holiday stress. Make this year's a less stressful holiday season by following these steps from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Plan ahead

Take note of what worked well in past years and repeat those things. Don’t force things that didn’t work well in the past. Make a general plan of menu items you want to serve, what day you’re going to shop and when you need to start thawing your turkey. Decide what dishes and serving trays you want to use — think about disposable items to make your life easier! Your family will remember how you made them feel more than they will judge every detail.

Don’t go it alone

It may be simpler to take control of everything yourself, but it is an easy way to burn out.

Ask for your family’s assistance and promote yourself as the delegator. If someone else makes perfect pies or delicious stuffing, let them take that task off your plate. You can designate a coordinator who plans the menu and asks others to bring a side item. This gives everyone the chance to display their cooking talents. Your family will appreciate you being more relaxed, and working together gets everyone in the holiday spirit.

Resist the urge to buy new things

And avoid giving in to the pressure to try new recipes. Now is not the time to channel your inner Martha Stewart or redecorate your living room.

Go with what you know. Classic holiday foods have many fond memories attached to them, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. If you love trying new things, try just one new recipe.

Set realistic expectations for family affairs

All families have disagreements, and that’s OK. With so many people in close quarters, tempers can run high! Sometimes those disagreeable moments are the ones we laugh about down the road.

Since time machines are not available, it is important to find a way to live in the now.

Consider a seating chart

Even though seating charts may sound formal, it can take the awkwardness out of finding a place to sit, especially if your guests are unfamiliar with each other.

A well-crafted seating chart can eliminate conflict and generate free-flowing, positive conversations. If there is one person that always “stirs the pot,” place him or her at the end of the table, perhaps nearest those who won’t be influenced or upset by their remarks. Place attention seekers at the other end of the table so they don’t monopolize the conversation. In the center, seat the extroverts who have never met a stranger so that they can make everyone feel at home.


Take the pressure off by sharing both the love and the responsibilities this holiday season. Enjoy the company of friends and family and take time to remember what the holidays are all about.