Well, we’re midway through November and for many of you, holiday planning is in high gear! I’m already starting to pick up those special ingredients needed to create a Pinterest-worthy (ok…maybe that’s a stretch) Thanksgiving spread for my family and snagging a few Christmas gifts when I can to make my holidays as stress-free as possible. Through experience, I’ve learned that preparation is key to enjoying a fun, relatively calm holiday season, particularly when you have little ones underfoot.

 

I thought I’d share a few simple ways to incorporate giving back this Thanksgiving and some tips for beating holiday stress. I hope you find these helpful and I would love to hear if you participate in or try any of them.

 

FITNESS – Burning off the extra calories you know you’re going to consume 

  • The TXU Energy Turkey Trot is in its 20th year and going strong with an anticipated 15,000 trotters this year. I actually organized this charity race for five years before starting my own business so trust me when I tell you it’s a great way to kick off your Thanksgiving Day! The Turkey Trot benefits Sheltering Arms Senior Services, a 119 year old nonprofit organization that offers a variety of services for older adults throughout the Greater Houston area. Early registration ends on November 16th so sign up now, start fundraising, and trot your little heart out!
  • Do turkeys “dash”? I don’t know but at the Katy Family YMCA Turkey Dash, you’ll find loads of people running, walking, and, yes even dashing, across the finish line! In its tenth year, Katy’s largest fun run features a 10K, 5K, 1 mile kids walk/run. Co-hosted by the Katy Family YMCA and The Fellowship at Cinco Ranch, participants and revelers can look forward to post-race awards, door prizes, complimentary refreshments, and a kids fun zone.
  • Billing itself as Houston’s ORIGINAL Turkey Trot, the 27th Annual Sugar Land Surgical Turkey Trot courses its way through scenic Sugar Land Sugar Creek subdivision. This race has less participants than the other races I’ve listed but still manages to benefit a dozen great local causes including Autism Speaks, MD Anderson Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

 

Not in the mood to run but want to be a part of the action? Volunteer! Check their websites for volunteer positions including pre-race promotion, hoopla cheering stations to keep runners motivated, water stop attendants, kids course volunteers, and mile callers. And don’t forget you can always donate to these worthy organizations on your own.

 

NURTURE – Providing hands-on help to those in need

  • Houston’s annual Thanksgiving Day Big Feast will serve more than 35,000 warm holiday meals to hungry Houstonians this year at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Needless to say, they can use volunteers to set up, cook, serve, and cleanup. Volunteer shifts are flexible so you could help out in the morning then join your family at home for your own feast or you could go in a bit later to help with clean up. All volunteers are also welcome to join in for the meal.
  • The Interfaith Ministries For Greater Houston Meals on Wheels program does an amazing job of ensuring that home bound older adults have healthy meals and Thanksgiving Day is no exception! Their website states that they have had an increase in applications and cannot guarantee a delivery route on Thanksgiving Day so volunteering to be a back-up driver is a great way to get involved and possibly meet a new friend. Meals will be picked up at 10 a.m., and you should be able to finish up making home visits to spread cheer and hot meals by early afternoon, just in time to join your own family. There’s also the opportunity to sponsor a full holiday meal for a Houston area senior for only $5!
  •  If you know someone who doesn’t have family in the area, perhaps a friend or colleague, invite them to join your family at the dinner table. It’ll brighten their holiday and add more to yours. Also, next time you’re at the grocery or drug store, take an extra minute to pick up a card to send an old friend or even someone you talk to every day. Tell them how thankful you are for their friendship. This small effort will go a long way in making them feel appreciated and special. Don’t we all want that?

 

SELF – “Keep Calm and Thanksgiving On”

In addition to my “preparation is key to a sane holiday season” mantra, you’ve got to take care of yourself… which becomes hard to do when you have meals to make, guests to host, gifts to buy, cleaning to do, and children to manage.

  • Taking an hour each day, even on Thanksgiving Day, will help you remain in the moment rather than worrying about all the little details. You can try yoga, meditation, running, walking, cycling, playing with your children, reading, or watching your favorite movie to stay relaxed and in a good mood. Everyone will thank you. Trust me.
  • Make your favorite Thanksgiving dish even if no one else is going to eat it! This day only comes around once a year so enjoy every bite! If you find yourself with a free weeknight or weekend afternoon before the big day, ease your workload by making casseroles and soups ahead of time and freezing them.
  • Smile. No, seriously, smile. Studies show that the mere act of smiling, even if you don’t feel like it, decreases stress and helps us feel better. So whether you’re dealing with a tray of burnt biscuits or unexpected dinner guests, smile and remember that this day is for cherishing your loved ones, making memories, and being thankful.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!