My husband’s mom used to stress out so much when people came over that he grew up hating having company. It wasn’t until many years into our marriage that we started having people over more often that he finally learned to relax into things. Even up until a few years ago he would be super stressed every time we’d host people for any occasion (our biggest two being the 4th of July and Thanksgiving).
Even though hosting can build or re-build connections, release feel-good hormones, and boost our mental health, I’ve noticed over the years that fewer people seem willing to go out on a limb and take on the host/hostess role. What is it that causes so much anxiety about having people over? And how can we overcome the angst?
What’s Holding Us Back?
Our own expectations of perfection
Keep in mind that the reason people are coming over is for the company, not the perfect place setting or a Martha Stewart meal. And if those other things are the reason they’re coming, you might want to consider finding a new group of friends. Worst case scenario? The food you cook is inedible, in which case you can always order a pizza.
Remember, this is all about spending time connecting with people you enjoy being around!
The pandemic brings up so many scary emotions for a lot of us about having people in our homes again
This is a personal preference based on our comfort level and one you’ll want to consider amid all the craziness the pandemic has presented to us. Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide if you feel safe having people in your home right now.
If you’re ready, consider whether you want to have only vaccinated people or where your comfort level lies. And give your guests the courtesy of being honest with them about what you’re asking of all of them.
You’re out of practice
Wade back into those hosting waters gingerly. Start small. Host an intimate group of your favorite people and have food delivered. Tell them up front that there are zero expectations, that you’re all there to reconnect.
Fear of being judged about how we live
Is our house clean enough? Is that picture hung perfectly?
Choose quality people to host and they won’t care about such minor things. They’ll be happy to be included and given the opportunity to spend time with other quality folks.
Keep in mind that most people have hosted at one time or another, so they’ll empathize with your struggles and appreciate your efforts.
Worried about showing your guests a good time
Switch your mindset and focus instead on how much you’re looking forward to spending time with them instead. If the host is having a good time, everyone else will likely have a good time too.
Too many restrictions from your guests (gluten-free, peanut allergy, picky eaters)
Instead of stressing about making sure the food you’re cooking is gluten-free, vegetarian, or part of a keto diet, ask guests who have particular eating habits to bring foods they know they’ll be able to eat.
This takes the burden off you to get it right, and it takes the pressure off them of worrying there won’t be anything for them to eat.
Loss, or lack, of cooking skills
There’s no better time or reason to learn or re-learn. I don’t recommend trying new recipes when you’re having people over, because worrying about whether the meal will turn out can increase your stress levels.
Knowing that you’re going to have people over, though, can be the perfect motivation to practice those cooking skills ahead of time. But then again, if things don’t turn out, or for stress free meal planning, ordering in has become exceedingly easy in the era of meal delivery services.
During the party, don’t stress if your meal takes more time to prepare than you anticipated. You’re setting the tone, so entertain your friends while you’re cooking and have fun with it. If you’re relaxed, they will be too. They’re there to spend time with you, so if the meal takes a little longer consider that part of your time spent together.
Not as exciting as going out to dinner
There is always a time and place for going out. But just as much fun can be had now and then not rushing through a meal out and enjoying your time in the peace and comfort of your own home. And when you host people, you have more control over things like what music is playing and how loud it is than you would at a restaurant.
Worried about being unable to get guests to leave
Learn to be okay with saying you’re tired and have a lot to clean up before going to bed. Or let people know before they come over that the event will take place from a certain time to a certain time.
Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of planning
Break it down:
- What kind of evening/event do you want to plan?
Brunch? Dinner? 4th of July party? Thanksgiving? Theme party? Cocktail party? Pizza party? Potluck?
- How many people do you want to have?
Consider the crowd and how well the guests you invite will interact.
- If you’re cooking, make the menu as simple as possible.
Cook as much as you can before your guests arrive
Again, keep it simple. Research ideas online for inspiration. You may wow your guests if you spend a lot of time decorating your house, but if you’re stressed about spending too much time on things like making it super festive it’s not worth it.
I’ve served dessert on paper plates before on Thanksgiving because I didn’t want to have more dishes to clean and no one complained. They even came back the next year.
My dad hosted a big Thanksgiving every year for family, friends, and people who didn’t have somewhere else to go. He was always relaxed and truly enjoyed the evening, and it became my favorite holiday because of his love of people and of hosting them. He never stressed about how things would turn out or if people would have a good time. My dad just loved and was grateful to have good people around him for a holiday that meant a lot to him.
After he died, I took over the tradition (17 years and counting) because it had come to mean so much to me, as well as being a reminder of what an incredible person he was and why the holiday meant so much to him.
I get a little anxious when planning Thanksgiving dinner or our big 4th of July party every year. But once I start planning the menu and what I’m going to prepare when, I begin to remember why I’m doing it and I’m able to loosen up and enjoy what I’m doing. I put on music when I’m cooking the dessert two days ahead and again when I’m making some of the other items the day before, and it becomes something I look forward to instead of something to stress about. And as soon as people start arriving, I’m so excited to see them that the anxiety fades and the fun commences.
Slow down and love the doing. Let go of expecting a certain outcome and enjoy every moment of being a host. If your family/friends are quality peeps, and I’m guessing they are or why would you even be thinking about hosting them, then the event should be stress-free and enjoyable for everyone
As is often the case, overthinking can keep us from taking action. But action kills anxiety. If there’s a part of you that wants to try hosting people again (or for the first time), you’ll have to jump in and give it a shot. Your guests will appreciate the effort and you may find it gives you a sense of connection and meaning.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get this party started!
Perfection rejectionist Lisa Kiersky Schreiber is a nutrition and lifestyle coach who helps clients take a holistic and realistic approach to wellness. Lisa got off the diet carousel and can help you do the same.
Find other articles written by Lisa on her coach profile. Her philosophy will help you simplify your nutrition lifestyle so you can learn to trust yourself implicitly around food.