Linda Lewis Griffith

How to avoid holiday hysteria this Thanksgiving


If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this week, you’ve got more on your plate than roast turkey.

You may be expecting a houseful of family and friends. Or trying to impress a new boyfriend’s parents. Perhaps you’re tackling an array of complex side dishes featured in this month’s Bon Appetit. At the very least, you’re standing in line for hours at the market, knowing you’re expected back at work.

All this stress creates holiday hysteria, a through-the-roof type of anxiety directly correlated to the size and perceived importance of an impending event. It’s brought on by sky-high expectations combined with overly elaborate plans and a strong desire to meet others’ needs. Too many moving parts increase the likelihood of problems. Because the system is already stretched to maximum limits, it’s primed to blow when things go awry.

The syndrome is most commonly found in females because, let’s face it, most familial entertaining is still orchestrated by women. But if guys get too worked up about an impending gathering of the clan, then they can be victims, too.

Sure signs of holiday hysteria are a short temper and feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and disappointed. Despite your best planning, you run short of time. No matter how much others offer to help you, their efforts fall woefully short.

Sadly, all the craziness is for naught.

Guests don’t want their hosts and hostesses to be emotional basket cases. They want them to be calm and relaxed and set a pleasant tone for the event. If guests do harbor impossible standards, that’s their problem, not yours.

The real goal is to keep the event manageable. Have a good time. And seat sanity at the head of the table.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit

How to avoid holiday hysteria:

  • Tune in to your stress level. Are you snapping at your kids? Resentful that you’re doing all the work? Then make some changes — pronto! Nothing is worth being stressed out.
  • Decide where to put your effort. Do what you like doing and what you’re good at. Forget or cut corners on everything else. Your emotional status is more important than using the family silver.
  • Let go of others’ expectations. Don’t fret about what you think other people want. Your perceptions about them may not be accurate.
  • Keep plans simple. Pare back wherever you can. It’s already stressful hosting a large event. Don’t do anything that’s not necessary.
  • Spread the load. Assign specific jobs and food for others to bring. Then check those items off your list. Don’t micro-manage everyone else.
  • Allow more time than you think you’ll need. Problems invariably crop up at the last minute. If you’re ahead of schedule, you’ll have more time to chill.
  • Have a contingency plan. Double up on the must-have items; if something goes haywire you won’t get left in a lurch.
  • Allow for time to relax. The final few days are the most hectic. They’re also the time when you need to take a walk, meditate or read a magazine.