Pro tips for surviving Thanksgiving dinner-table conflict


A stress-reduction expert and an etiquette coach share their best advice for a successful holiday season

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and being with loved ones. But for many, it can be a stressful holiday marked by one big meal — and the conversation at the dinner table can feel like a political minefield.

Here’s one thing to be thankful for: a local stress-reduction expert who shared some tips for surviving the holidays amidst a politically-charged climate.

Ian Rubin is a certified health coach and personal trainer at the National University of Natural Medicine. He said the best advice he can give to avoid stress is to let go of outcomes.

“If you let go of trying to control the outcome, a lot, then what happens is you won’t get so drawn into the conflict or intense political conversations,” Rubin said.

No matter what ire-inducing conversations come up, Rubin said the best way to handle the situation is to remind yourself of a few things.

Stress-reduction expert Ian Rubin, Nov. 27, 2019. (KOIN)

“If you are just like, ‘You know what, it’s really not that important, I’m going to minimize or avoid the conversation and not let it ruin the whole night’ then that really helps people a lot,” he said.

Etiquette coach Elaine Swann suggested hosts make a plan to deal with polarizing discussions. She also suggested designating a calm family member as someone who can double as a moderator and peacekeeper.

If a conflict does occur, Rubin said to keep one thing in mind.

“First of all, it’s just one night,” he said. “No matter what happens at the end of the night, remember we all survived — it was one night.”

Rubin said if all else fails, just focus on the food.

FILE: A roasted turkey. (KOIN)

“I tell people to focus on mindful eating because you are going to be eating food anyways, you might as well be in the moment and enjoy it,” he said. “It’s also a great distraction from any other craziness that’s going on.”

Busting out a board game or a family photo album can also help cut through the tension.

“I think if we can accept there is going to be some stress and anxiety in the holidays, conversations, food — then we can work on managing expectations and we won’t be so disappointed.”

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