If you’re feeling overwhelmed and maybe even a little bit panicked right now, you’re not alone. In fact, whether it’s advice for serving up a flawless menu, creating spectacular table décor or handling those maddening family squabbles, experts of all sorts are clogging the airwaves and social media sites with their tips for surviving Thanksgiving.
But what about those post-Thanksgiving hours? You know … after you decompress from carb- and relatives-overload, stare in the mirror and mumble, “I have to do this all over again in less than a month?”
Relax, my friends, because I’m in your corner. I know what it’s like to go through withdrawal from homemade baked goods and bottomless glasses of wine. I’ve seen friendly family arguments turn into nasty, recess-worthy brawls, and I’ve both suffered and embraced countless homecomings and life-changing holidays.
First and foremost, you have to actually get through them. And then after it’s all over, you have to recover. So here are my top five Post-Thanksgiving Survival Tips (you might want to keep them handy – you’re going to need them):
- Phone a friend. It’s imperative to cleanse your soul before you tackle those carpet stains or your bloated belly. Get in touch with that friend who understands you more than anyone else, and pour your guts out. Scream about your mother-in-law, and how she undermines everything you do in the kitchen. Psychoanalyze your cousins and their need to recycle off-color jokes from 1987. Go ahead, get it all out of your system. Compare notes! And don’t forget to be a good listener when your friend needs to do the same thing. Crazy is everywhere.
- Avoid the scale. Yes, you’ll eat things you shouldn’t have, and you’ll ingest more calories than the average bear before hibernation, but so did everyone else. Don’t beat yourself up about it, and please resist the urge to tell every single person you meet, “You wouldn’t believe how much I ate …” We do believe it, because we all did the same thing. Don’t waste your time on guilt trips, just get back in the feeling-good game as soon as you can.
- Find perspective. The very definition of Thanksgiving is, “eat, drink and squabble.” Look it up. The only thing to do is embrace it and realize that in a day or two, everything that’s making you feel annoyed now will seem funny later. The wine on the brand new tablecloth? In another year, you won’t even remember it. The dirty dishes? They will one day be clean. If the holidays were easy, there wouldn’t be so many priceless movies making fun of them. In fact, I suggest a movie night featuring comedies that best illustrate family dysfunction in all its glory. Some of my favorites are: Christmas Vacation; Home for the Holidays; The Family Stone; and Bridgette Jones’s Diary.
- Give yourself a break. While it’s tempting to fill every hour of your life from Black Friday through New Year’s Eve with frantic shopping trips, Ninja gift wrapping, holiday lunches and social obligations, don’t do it. Make time for quiet. You don’t have to accept every single party invitation or charity request. There are no laws that say you must participate in the madness that has become the holiday season. It’s your life, and you get to make up your own rules. Take a breath and relax, if only for a day or two.
- Enjoy the moment. Yes, it’s the biggest cliché on earth. But there’s a reason why everyone says it – because we all forget to do it! It’s so easy to get caught up in our jam-packed calendars – in those let’s-just-get-through-this events – that days and weeks go by without one single heartfelt moment. So put down the cell phone, walk away from your laptop, and just feel. Savor the mouth-watering aromas floating from the kitchen. Relish the sights and sounds that envelope you at the mall … on a walk … in a restaurant or store. Laugh, cry, hug, appreciate, sigh, gasp, kiss, relate and experience. You can do it!
And above all, don’t forget your sense of humor. No holiday is complete without it. As David Letterman said, “Thanksgiving is the day when you turn to another family member and say, ‘How long has Mom been drinking like this?’ My Mom, after six Bloody Marys looks at the turkey and goes, ‘Here, kitty, kitty.’ ”
Good luck, my holiday warriors. We’re all in this together.
©2013 Michelle Freed