6 Ways to De-Stress at the Dinner Table
Make mealtime a relaxing oasis for one, two, or the whole family.
What's dinnertime like at your place?
Maybe "dinner" consists of lukewarm takeout, eaten alone in front of
the TV while you surf the Internet and answer email. Or perhaps the eat-and-run
dinners you share with your spouse or partner barely leave you time to say
"hello" and "goodbye" to each other. Or maybe your kitchen is
starting to resemble a fast-food restaurant, with family members coming in and
out and grabbing a bite between activities.
While the dinner hour once represented a calm oasis from the day's storm,
experts say today it's often anything but relaxing.
"We're hurried, we're harried, we've turned up the volume of our lives
to such a high number that we often can't even see how stressed we are. And we
almost never see how we bring that stress to the dinner table, a place where
traditionally we sought relaxation and comfort," says Mimi Donaldson, a
stress and time management expert.
With blaring TVs, ringing cell phones and "You've got mail!" chiming
in the background, in some homes the dinner hour is every bit as stressful as
the rest of the day, says Donaldson, co-author of the book Bless Your
Stress: It Means You're Still Alive.
"When you add in sibling rivalry and a dose of parental discipline,
mealtime can quickly become a combat zone that nobody wants to enter," says
If you're thinking all this doesn't matter much, think again.
Recent research at Columbia University found that children who regularly had
dinner with their families are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and more
likely to do better in school. In fact, studies show the best-adjusted children
are those who eat with an adult at least five times a week, says Ann Von
Berber, PhD, chair of the department of nutrition sciences at Texas Christian
University in Fort Worth.
"Many studies support the importance of family mealtime in decreasing
the incidence of teens who smoke, drink alcohol, participate in sex at a young
age, start fights, get suspended from school, or commit suicide," says Von
And kids aren't the only ones who benefit from a peaceful repast. Experts
say that couples as well as singles reap benefits when mealtime is a relaxing
"It's not only better for the soul and spirit to dine quietly and slowly
-- even if you're alone -- but it's also good for the digestion," says
Loren Ekroth, PhD, a former family therapist from Las Vegas who is the founder