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This time of year may be festive, but it's also mighty stressful. Here are eight ways to bring your holiday stress levels down a bit:

Make A Holiday Budget

This is a big one. Overspending throughout the holidays is not only stressful while you're doing it, the stress continues into January (and potentially many months after that) when the credit card and bank statements arrive. Make a realistic budget early -- in August or September -- for the upcoming holidays, carefully review it, then stick to it! 

Wrap And Ship Early

Last-minute gifts can bust your budget -- and your sanity. Plan your shopping and avoid doing anything impulsively. Wrap everything as soon as it’s purchased and tuck it away until the tree is up and decorated. Ship gifts to loved ones far in advance of the holiday unless you like waiting in lines at the post office, which is never fun.

Get Family Involved

Anyone who insists on doing it all alone during the holidays will likely end up super stressed. To stay sane and healthy, delegate holiday tasks between family members. (It’s great that you ordered the fruitcakes, but you don’t have to be the one who picks them up.) If everyone contributes, no one will have to do it all by themselves.


Take the time to volunteer at a local homeless shelter, community center or for any other cause you feel passionate about. The enrichment that comes from such worthwhile endeavors can’t be measured in dollars and cents. Your time is the most precious thing you have during the holiday season, and putting your own stressors aside for a little while and helping others will bring you joy (and help you spread it, too).

Exercise Regularly

We often eat way too many rich and fatty foods during the holidays. And it's understandable: Aunt Betsy's homemade cookies are so good, it's hard not to have another one (or two, or three or four). But if you really want to cut out the cookies and the rest of the fattening holiday goods, go exercise. You'll feel better and will likely be less inclined to indulge on holiday treats if you know you're going to have to run an extra five miles the next day to burn the extra calories off.

Plan Your Holiday Activities

Scheduling multiple activities for the same day can result in frustrated family members and lost opportunities, not to mention the occasional argument. Avoid this stressful pitfall by listing all of your family's planned holiday activities on a calendar. Plays, religious services, family meals and traditional gatherings need to be noted, along with who's attending. Post the list on the refrigerator and make a rule: It must be on the calendar in order to happen. That way, every family member can see what and when everything is planned, so your son won't go on a Christmas Light Tour with his friend when he knows he needs to be at Grandma’s house for dinner. If you want up-to-the-moment updates, you can enhance your family's schedule by having everyone download a shared calendar app on their smartphones. Do that, and you can cross missed family engagements off your list of potential stressors.

Work In Some Alone Time

Avoid choreographing, plotting and planning out every hour of the holidays. Factor in some alone time for the sake of your mental health. Remember to work in some free time for the overachievers in your family as well. During the holidays, we all need to be saved from stressors!

Be Flexible

The holidays require planning so merry-makers can manage everything without too much stress. But like most things, you can take strict adherence too far. Being rigid and inflexible will leave you no room for sudden changes in plans, which (let's face it) may be frequent. If you accept changes when they occur, you'll be happier for it.

Also, be willing to compromise. Just because you want to go to a Santa/Elvis dress-up contest doesn’t mean that the rest of your family will. Be ready to accept plan B, and keep an "Oh, well!" attitude when dealing with the inevitable setbacks to your careful planning. You’ll have a happier holiday if you do.