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Emotional Health: 5 Tips for Surviving the Thanksgiving Table with Relatives

Thanksgiving is a day that is all about food, football, and family—the lattermost of which can be an unfortunate cause of anxiety for many hosts.

Deep down you and your relatives love one another, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t drive each other a little crazy sometimes. Here are five tips for surviving the Thanksgiving season:

  1. Strategic seating: If you know that Aunt Linda and Uncle Marty don’t get along, think about sitting them at opposite ends of the table. Some proactive seating arrangements can go a long way to avoid petty arguments throughout the meal.
  2. Potluck it up: The holidays are already stressful enough. Encouraging your relatives to contribute to the feast will not only take some of the pressure off of the host, but it will allow everyone to play a part in the festivities.
  3. Take a breather: You deserve it. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood. Even something as simple as taking a few deep breaths and a moment to collect yourself can help you calm down.
  4. Steer the conversation: Avoid hot-button issues and triggering topics that you know will ultimately lead to an argument. Find some common ground and tread on it. Discuss your favorite—or least favorite—team that’s playing that day, or how the kids are doing, or any topic that will lead to smiles and laughs instead of fights and curses.
  5. Remember to actually be thankful: Studies show that even the simple act of expressing gratitude can boost your mood and aid overall mental health. Go around the table and say something for which you’re genuinely thankful.

At the end of the day, you’re all lucky enough to spend this time together and enjoy this meal, and that—in the true spirit of the holiday—is enough reason to say “thanks.”