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De-Stressing The Holidays
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Holiday stress. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? How can you allow yourself to feel stressed, when holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxing, a break from the hurly-burly of daily life?

But there you have it – in this harried modern world of ours, life gets increasingly complicated. Come the Christmas season, when you should be enjoying and taking time off to be with family and friend, there are things you need to do: presents to buy, gifts to wrap, a house to decorate, holiday meals to prepare, even parties to attend. All these activities can be stressful for many.

The biggest potential stress is, of course, financial. People complain about the frenzy because the ritual of holiday gift-giving is an important ritual that allows them to affirm their social and family ties.

Here, a few guidelines to consider as you make your holiday preparations.

Make a holiday mission statement.
To get the kind of holiday celebration you want - and decrease holiday stress - start by writing a mission statement.

As a family write down what you want your holiday experience to focus on. For example, having fun time together, getting plenty of rest and relaxation, or helping the less fortunate. Post this 'holiday mission statement' where all family members can see it. 

When you start feeling frustrated or stressed, read your mission and ask yourself if what you're doing is what you want your holiday to be like. Concentrate your efforts on those activities that make your holiday mission a reality. 

Meaningful Christmas.
Eliminate holiday traditions that have lost their meaning for you. This allows you to focus on family and relaxation - the two things that holidays are all about.

In this fast times, less is more. Instead of New Year's resolutions, make Christmas resolutions: limit mall shopping and parties. Have more meaningful Christmas giveaways. No more feeling guilty about not being able to host sumptuous parties for your friends and relatives. 

Don't do things you don't want to do. Stress is something we do to ourselves. Want relief? Loosen up. If you've bee invited somewhere, decide if it’s something you want to do or not. Don't stay at a party until your enthusiasm has worn out. If you drive, bring your own car so you can leave whenever you want to. 

Shop early and wisely.
Shop early. How often have we heard that one? That's because shopping early does decrease the stress of having to jostle with the crowds during the Christmas months.

Just how early is early? How about spreading the task over a year? Start with the after-Christmas sales in late December, you'll find great bargains there. Throughout the year, when you see something that someone you know might like, buy it. Come the holiday season, you will have few, if not zero, Christmas gifts to buy. 

Get out of the kitchen.
Stop trying to do it all. You deserve to enjoy your time off, too, instead of just cooking, serving, cleaning and hosting until it's suddenly time to go back to work. When hosting family or friends for the holidays, don't be afraid to ask guests to bring their favorite dishes. This cuts down on the stress of one person preparing the whole dinner.

You can even host a simple get-together. Instead of serving a full dinner, schedule the party for early afternoon or after dinner, and just serve finger foods and drinks. Choose foods that can be prepared ahead and refrigerated. Plan some interesting activity and voila! You have a memorable party with less stress.

Set aside a special weekend for the family bake-out. To make things easier, take a poll of your family and friends' favorite cakes and pastries and bake only the top two preferences. You may discover that someone else can take your place as the baker in the family. 

On the other hand, don't be compelled to bake or cook up a feast every year just because your family and friends expect you to. If you'd rather sit back and enjoy the holidays, order food and pastries from a good bakery or restaurant. 

Don't try for the perfect holiday.
Forget about keeping up with the Joneses. Trying to copy the perfect country Christmas motifs you see in glossy magazines may frustrate you. One of the best techniques for making the holidays less stressful is to create new and unique memories instead of trying to recreate the holidays of your past - or the holidays of other people's past.

Move your body, clear your mind.
Anxiety leads to depression, which can become more pronounced around the holiday season. There is no doubt that exercise helps some people keep problems at bay. Exercise helps burn away a lot of the stress that comes with the season as well as the occasional bouts of depression. Who knows, it might be just the headstart you need for your exercise regimen in the New Year.

Weight gain can also be a source of stress, so try to make a point to exercise regularly and be very active during the holidays. That way you can enjoy the occasional cookie, pie or other sweets that come with the season and not feel so helpless about gaining weight.

Meditation and some peace and quiet can help you stay in the holiday mood. When you start feeling overwhelmed by the preparations, it's time to find an isolated corner, sit still, close your eyes and clear your thoughts of everything that still has to be done. Sometimes just taking a step back and appreciating what you've already accomplished helps.

Say a prayer … alone.
Stop for a minute and say a short prayer. Thank god for all your blessings.

Finally, get off the stress wagon and don't forget that you're supposed to be having fun!

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September 23, 2017

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