How to Host a Stress-Free Holiday Gathering

Christmas RawAside from eating lots of healthy foods, true holistic wellness means not losing sight of things like rest, relationships and giving yourself permission to have fun. We hosted holiday celebration meals at our house for a number of years. We lived in military communities all over the world and rarely had our own families around. Instead, we often joined up with other military folks and their families, who, were, like us, celebrating apart from extended families. We had the largest household of all our friends in those days, so we often had the largest space and enough plates and silverware for entertaining. Hence, the big dinners frequently happened at our house. This was fine with me. I loved having a crowd in, and had plenty of helpers in our six daughters, so it was all good.

Not so good, though, was the amount of angst I felt as we were preparing: so many details to attend to, so many dishes to coordinate with the clock and the oven space, and so many competing needs in small children who weren’t as excited about all the preparations as some of the rest of us were.

As wonderful as it is to be the host of large family or adopted family gatherings, it is an extra level of participation from what those who are showing up with their prize dish and scrubbed children are experiencing. So if you are the one hosting a big dinner this holiday season, take note on how you can do all that needs to be done, and still be able to relax and unwind, spend quality time with your guests, and appreciate all the little things that go on during the day that make it the wonderful sort of days of which fond memories.

  1. Nourish Your Spirit in Advance
    Hosting a gathering – whether it’s just a few people or a big family feast – is an emotional undertaking, and preparing yourself on a personal level can go a long way in helping you maintain perspective and stay calm under pressure. In the weeks or days leading up to the event, get some extra sleep, practice meditation, journal or engage in a favorite hobby, and eat wholesome foods. This extra self-care will carry you through any potential stresses that come your way.
  2. Don’t do it alone.
    You don’t need to be superwoman to have a good time. Simply asking for help is the best way to reduce your workload while giving others the opportunity to contribute. Ask everyone to bring a dish, assign different responsibilities to people based on their genuine interests, and enlist at least one person to help with periodic cleanup throughout the party. When everyone comes together it takes the pressure off you and makes others feel like they played a valuable role.
  3. Start planning now.
    If you can pace yourself with preparations in the weeks and days leading up to the big event you’ll avoid the stress of staying up late the night before, losing precious sleep, and feeling overwhelmed. Plan ahead by prepping food in advance, being clear on who’s coming over and who’s doing what, and what you might need from the store. The less last-minute hassles you need to worry about the better.
  4. Keep the menu simple.
    It’s a blissful coincidence that the easiest recipes also tend to be the healthiest, so remember to focus on simplicity. This is not the time to experiment with fancy entrees, elaborate cocktails, and pie made from scratch. Plan on making whatever can be done quickly and effortlessly instead, such as a big salad, one entrée, some sautéed veggies, and one dessert. The same goes for decorations and other details like music. Just roll out a tablecloth, find a good radio station, and then actually join the party rather than being condemned to the kitchen. Making things more complicated than they need to be is often the biggest source of stress so don’t do that to yourself this year.
  5. Carve out some recovery time.
    Just like you prepared yourself in advance, it’s equally important to be kind to yourself afterwards. Save the dishes for the following morning, take a hot bath, give yourself a foot massage, and just take care of yourself in whatever way you need. If that means asking for more help so you can have some alone time then do it! The point here is to make real time on your calendar for recovery before you thrust yourself back into the daily grind. You deserve it!

So how about you? Do you have any healthy holiday hosting ideas of your own?  Share with us in the comments below!


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