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Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday


How parents can reduce stress this holiday season

Do you have a holiday to-do list eight pages long? One hundred gifts to buy and 12 dozen cookies to bake? If this sounds like you, take heed: Ongoing stress is a major contributing factor to poor health and it makes this time of year much less enjoyable. Check out these tips to keep your blood from boiling and your head from exploding.

1. Don't be afraid to say no. T'is the season of giving to others, but perhaps the best gift you can give is your serenity. If you're stressed from overcommitting, your bad mood could sour someone else's yuletide cheer. If you don't want to go to a party, send a kind thank-you card; if you genuinely want to see someone, make plans for after the holidays. Pare down your to-do list as much as possible. If you must complete a task or errand, find a way to make it enjoyable - have a cookie-baking party or a gift wrapping-palooza.

2. Set limits with troublesome family members. Meet him or her for a set period of time in public, instead of inviting them into your home. Suggest nice hotels or bed and breakfasts if you do not want family staying overnight at your home. Make a personalized tourist book for visitors to keep them busy and out of your hair.

3. You don't have to be perfect. It took a team of professionals to create those beautiful decorations and delectable-looking cookies in that magazine, so be careful not to set that standard for yourself. You will notice more than anyone else if something isn't perfect.

4. Remember why you are doing this. Ask yourself why you celebrate certain holidays. If this task or that errand doesn't contribute something meaningful to your celebration, cross it off your list. Chances are no one will notice it's missing.

5. Make your own traditions. Hold on to the practices from your childhood that you love and get rid of the traditions you don't like. Create new traditions with friends and/or family instead.

6. Accept help. Who said you have to decorate and shop all by yourself? Probably no one, but you took it all on anyway. Bring friends and family into the fold. Teach kids the meaning of gift giving and ask them to help pick out gifts. Teach a significant other how to make your favorite cookies. Turn that holiday dinner you're hosting into a potluck and have everyone bring a special dish from their childhood.

7. Exercise.

8. Eat well. Try to keep stress-inducing foods like sugar, caffeine and alcohol to a minimum.

9. Get enough sleep. Set boundaries. For example, if you start a task at 8 p.m., set an alarm for 9 p.m. Quit the task when the alarm goes off and save the rest until tomorrow. If your task requires a long time commitment, plan ahead and leave that for the weekend.

10. Involve the kids. Involve the kids so they can contribute to the spirit of your celebration. Did you commit to making a meal for the homeless shelter? Teach the kids a simple recipe and have them make the meal, helping them understand the importance of the gesture.

11. Cut the gift list. With consumerism running rampant, with displays and ads targeted to entice, be sure to make a list and set a budget before going shopping. It will be much easier on your willpower. Also ask yourself if you're buying gifts just to buy gifts or if they will make a meaningful impact. If not, consider giving time instead of gifts. For example, offer a free night of babysitting or a homemade meal come January. Chances are, your friends and family will remember these meaningful gestures more than something you picked up at the store at the last minute. Also consider a gift exchange, where everyone draws names and each person buys just one gift. It's easier on your willpower and will avoid the stress of overextending your budget.

12. Unplug. The world will not stop if you turn off your phone or close your laptop on the weekend or at night. Give your loved ones your full attention and indulge in some uninterrupted family time.

13. Create a cozy atmosphere as you complete your to-do list. Turn off the TV and instead light the fireplace while you write cards, play music while you bake or light a cinnamon-scented candle while you gift wrap.

Learn how to stay healthy and active this holiday season.