Sometimes people ask me if there is an evidence-based way to manage the stress of dealing with difficult relatives at Thanksgiving, and my short answer is "chloroform."

In modern hippie dippie wellness culture, that may not be the response people are seeking, they may want validation of essential oils or an app, but one thing most people don't realize is that stress is not about fads or even other people. We manage stress, we only think it manages us. 

Any gathering of diverse family and friends is probably going to have someone you dislike but if you are already complaining about spending time with the in-law who thinks Trump colluded with the Russians in 2016 or that cousin who will give you their latest treatise on how Biden is an animatronic robot controlled by George Soros, you're going to have a bad visit unless you take ownership of your own brain.

Alcohol can be hit and miss when it comes to Thanksgiving so read the room before you indulge too much. It can make good parties better but bad parties a whole lot worse.

Stress is partly psychological but a whole lot is biological. Here are some ways to improve both.

1. Be ready to be funny. In the classic comedy "Barbershop", when a fight is about to break out between two of the men, something occurred which many Americans probably did not realize could happen at all, but probably did happen in real life because it is too perfect to be manufactured; someone pushed a button on a boom box, Marvin Gaye filled the room, and people started dancing between them. Eventually the two aggressors figured it out and they smiled and walked away. Imagine the geopolitical tension that could be defused if Xi Jinping and Joe Biden had a dance off every time things get heated.

Most of us are not going to dance but truly everyone can be funny. Just prepare a one-liner or two in advance, because here is the thing; if you introduce a joke in a tense situation when it is absolutely not natural even the hostiles recognize that is a signal they are acting out of line. And most will change their behavior.

Don't have one? Here is a "dad" joke I keep handy because it kills in any situation:

Q: What part of the body never wins a fight?
A: Da feet (Defeat)

You are welcome.

2. Chew a piece of gum. A 2015 study on chewing and stress reduction sought to examine neuronal reasons why it worked as a coping mechanism. The authors believe chewing prevents stress-induced changes in the hippocampus and that may be due to production of peptides like neurotrophic factors and blood pressure reducing nitric oxide.

Getting naked also produces neurotrophic factors but let's assume it's not that kind of party. What is socially acceptable at any kind of party is chewing a piece of gum. Some will assume you are chewing it because it cleans teeth, some will assume you want fresh breath, but you can chew it if it helps reduce heartburn or you feel your stress and anxiety going up.

Will it work for your stress? That I do not know, but it works for mine. I don't like taking medicine unless it is medically necessary so I chew gum when I get a headache. Now, I don't get crippling headaches, that probably won't work for migraine sufferers. Since any headache I get is almost always related to working (1) as a writer (2) at a nonprofit, it is a stress issue. And I had a headache before I wrote this and chewed a piece of gum rather than find an Advil by walking across the large house whose mortgage payment likely adds to my stress levels.

I completely get that chewing gum may be a bias for me because during my youth as a soldier, I always had gum. It made long walks feel shorter and it was a treat when we had a break. Exercise is also a good stress reliever and young soldiers exercise a lot so it may be just correlation and I associate gum with breaks from work or exercise. Human psychology is a mystery that way. I just know it works for me so it may be worth a try for you.

If not, consider that chloroform...