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Protect Your Heart for Dinner By Katherine Young

Young KatherineIn less than four weeks, many of us will be sitting at a dinner table filled with delectable dishes: turkey, dressing, greens, casseroles, cakes and pies, and even more awaiting us where we all come together to give thanks for friends, family, good food, and our lives. In the midst of preparing yourself for wonderful food, have you spent any time preparing your heart, soul, and mind for what you will hear? I don’t know about you, but I have been a witness at many a holiday dinner table, where it seems as though the guests have now shown up for an impromptu interview, and there must be someone present that’s a certified interviewer, because the questions just keep coming from every direction: What’s your credit score? Have you gained weight? Don’t you still owe me $50 from last year?

While it can be quite comical to be a witness to this type of “family gathering,” it can also be quite daunting, maybe even horrifying. So while we are reflecting on why we’re giving thanks this season, let’s also prepare our hearts and minds for the holiday conversation battle… I mean dinner.

Here are a few tips that can hopefully help you shift the conversation from chaos to calm:

  1. Arrive with zero expectations.

    If you don’t create unrealistic high hopes that “this will be the year my family will act right”, you will not set yourself up for failure. So if everyone is acting on their best or worst behavior, you can enjoy your dinner knowing that you did not expect anything from the beginning.

  2. Breathe Through It and Attempt to Set Boundaries.

    If you know there are individuals who really irk your nerves, it may be helpful to practice some breathing techniques beforehand and even during the dinner to get you through. If it’s at all possible to not sit next to your aunt who will figure out a way to ask to borrow rent money from you, then do that and stay engaged with others you enjoy (or at least tolerate). If the unwanted do confront you, smile and breathe slowly: inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth (when you’re not chewing) 3-4 times, and respond in an amiable but yet short response, then keep it moving.


  1. Keep your COOL.

    Remember that this is an intended day to enjoy your loved ones and fellowship with them. Despite what people may say to antagonize you, know that you don’t have to see them or even deal with them after the day is over, unless you CHOOSE to deal with them. When someone says something that annoys you, choose joy and respond in a cool, calm, and collected manner that does not escalate the situation, forcing you to lose your cool and then create even more drama. Keep all things in perspective and before you even sit down for dinner, remind yourself to keep your joy. Nobody can steal your joy unless you allow them to steal it.