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Savoring the Season: Simple tips for reducing stress during the holidays

Some people say that the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. If that's true, then this time should be savored, not rushed through attending events, scouring the store sales racks and staying up late trying to fit everything in.

According to a study performed by the American Psychological Association, "People in the United States are more likely to feel their stress increases rather than decreases during the holidays. The holidays can be a hectic time for many, and a lack of money, a lack of time, and the hype and commercialism of the season causes increased stress for people in this country."

Here are some tips to help manage the stress that comes with the season.

Don't over-schedule: With all of the opportunities to attend a holiday event of some kind, it seems the time away from home seems to add up quickly. But you can sift through the stress.

1. You don't have to say yes to every party. Compile a list of the parties you were invited to and only attend those that fit into your schedule comfortably.

2. If you want to attend a party, but don't have the time to stay the whole time, stop in to show your support then leave early.

3. If you've been asked to bring a food item, don't stress about it being homemade every time. It's okay to stop by the store and buy a pie if you've had a full day. Or if you are attending multiple parties, make a food item in bulk and freeze portions for easy access for the later event.

4. If you're hosting a holiday party, keep it simple. You don't have to include every idea you see on Pinterest. Make a plan and stick to it. Consider co-hosting to share the duties.

Money management: Go into the holiday season with a plan. Make a list of every person who you need to purchase a gift for and the budget you have to provide those gifts.

1. Set Limits on present buying and spending. It's so easy this time of year to want to buy everything for everyone because there are so many good deals and you feel like everyone is expecting something from you. It's okay to tone it down.

If you have a large family, draw names so you don't have to give a gift to every person. Set a budget for each present so there is a reasonable limit that every participant agrees to and follows.

2. Decide ahead of time what your kids need or want and stick to it. Some families do the four present limit using sayings like, something to play with, something to create with, something to watch, something to read. Then the child will receive one toy, one art set of some kind, one movie and one book. You can supplement with the needs: socks, underwear, etc., but it keeps the gift buying under control and equal. You should also decide that each category has a certain limit. Even with four presents, it can be easy to overspend.

If you are worried that your child will react poorly to a limited amount of presents, Dr. Cooper, psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University suggests that you "let the children know early on that there will be a limit to the number of gifts they will receive, and they should figure out and tell parents which items are most important to them."

Dr. Cooper also says that parents will enjoy the extra perk of letting the children know that "holidays are also a time for giving as well as receiving, and that with mom and dad's help, the children will determine ways to give to others."

Lack of time, personal or otherwise: The American Psychology Association mentioned in a recent poll that 69 percent of people are stressed over the holidays due to the feeling that there is a "lack of time" to not only get everything done, but to include down time into that schedule.

1. Plan family activities with simplicity. Just because this is the time of year when families come together doesn't mean that you should do those things in detriment to your mental and physical health. You don't need to include an advent activity, holiday craft, Christmas lights viewings, snowman building, manger reenactment, and sledding trip all in one weekend. When you sit down at the beginning of the season to plan out your events and budget, make sure to fit in the most important traditions along with those, and write them in sparingly so that you can enjoy the moment, not dread it.

2. If you want to do a holiday card, stick to the theme and keep it simple. You don't need to write the family letter or plan the color-coordinated family photo unless it brings you joy. If you enjoy making personalized cards instead of the photo cards, go that route. If you want to buy cards in bulk and sign your name, do what works for you. This time of year isn't a competition to see who spent the most money or who had the most elaborate family Christmas card.

3. This is the perfect time of year to show your neighbors how much you appreciate them. But just as it was with the Christmas cards, you need to use your neighbor gift giving as an opportunity to show your personality and bring yourself joy.

If you love to bake, make plates of holiday goodies. If you love to craft, make homemade ornaments. If you are short on time, buy a bottle of Martinelli's and put a bow on it. Make the process enjoyable and about sharing your hobbies and happiness with your neighbors, not trying to be like someone else.

4. Take the time to power-down and reconnect. When you do get free-time, which you should have, even if you had to pencil it into your schedule, spend it doing the things that relax you. Exercise, read, watch television or sleep. Give your mind and body a break from all of the holiday excitement.

Also, make sure to slow down and reconnect with the real reason for the season. All of these efforts to simplify and de-stress are to remind you to remember what is most important: family, love, peace on earth and good will to men.



Tara Creel is a Logan native and mother of three boys. Her email is taracreel@gmail.com and you can find her blogging at www.taracreelbooks.wordpress.com.

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