Thursday will be Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s time for celebrating with family, but for many people, it’s also a time for stress. In some cases, the stress is something that can be dealt with. It may for example, be the result of comparing one’s own gathering with a hypothetical, Norman Rockwell ideal family, even though the ideal family is vanishingly rare outside of paintings. Another source is dread of a fight at the dinner table. People don’t suddenly change on Thanksgiving, so expectation management—being aware that people will be pretty much the way they always are—will go a long way towards keeping calm.
On a more basic level, avoiding holiday stress means minimizing holiday stressors. One of the biggest things people worry about is forgetting something, and one way to avoid that is to make lists of everything. Even things that would seem so obvious that there’s no possible way to forget them should go on the list. That means the list is made when there’s time to sit down and think about it, and then when things are rushed, it is necessary only to follow it.
Thanksgiving is also a time of eating. The typical Thanksgiving meal is five or six times the size of a normal meal. Indeed, this, more than the tryptophan in the turkey, is responsible for the sleepiness many people feel after Thanksgiving dinner—the body is devoting much of its energy to processing all that food, and many people have alcohol as well. Of course, the occasional blow-out isn’t bad—while no one should eat a holiday dinner every night, a few times a year on special occasions is unlikely to do any lasting harm.
Some Thanksgiving foods can even be beneficial. Cranberry sauce, for example, contains a substance that can destroy the plaque responsible for tooth decay, as does red wine. Cranberries are also a good source of antioxidants, which can protect the body from some types of cancer. Turkey has selenium and other necessary nutrients, and if based in broth or wine, it’s low in saturated fat. In addition, the vegetables provide important nutrients even when incorporated into dressing or other rich holiday side dishes. Even gravy provides some health benefits.