By Mary Kay Turner

Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are wonderful and busy times for most people.  There are many tasks to accomplish and lots of expectations, so it can also be a very stressful time.  What can we do to reduce the stress in our lives during this time?  Effective communication can help.

Two attitudes that are essential in good communication are respect for other people and interest in what they have to say.  The best way to show love and respect is by listening so you understand what another person is saying and asking for clarification to be sure you understand. Sometimes people are so focused on what they are doing that they don’t see what is happening in the life of a spouse, family member, or friend.  It can even happen that someone takes family members “for granted” and treats them with less respect than would be given to someone not as close.  Remember that it is always best to treat all people, especially those closest to you, the way you like to be treated.

If you are feeling stressed, it is important for you to tell your family members that you are feeling stressed and can use some help.  It is good to ask for help with specific tasks.  At Thanksgiving I was enjoying visiting with my adult children and wasn’t getting food prepared on schedule.  I had mixed and kneaded bread dough so I showed my daughter and son how I shape rolls and asked them to do it.  They worked together and put them in the pan ready to rise.  They also peeled and cut the potatoes and put them into the pan to boil.  I washed the sweet potatoes and my daughter cut them to be roasted.  By working together we got dinner ready by the time our guests arrived.

If you are on track with your preparations and see that a family member or friend is stressed, you might ask how you can help.  Some people are reluctant to ask for help and might be grateful for your offer.  Of course, some people prefer to do things their own way, so it is good to respect that.

It is easy to see that there is a lot of polarization in the US. That polarization can even be evident in work places, neighborhoods, and families.  A retired psychologist wrote Dear Annie and said that he often recommended that patients speak the phrase, “You could be right.  I’ll have to think about it.” to avoid endless arguments and putdowns.  It takes some courage to say it, but this comment tends to stop the argument in its tracks.  It can even lead to dialogue.  The person who says it can continue to think and do what s/he actually thinks is best.

Plan well, breathe, get enough sleep, and take care of yourself so you stay well and have the energy to have a wonderful loving celebration.