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Five tips for alleviating holiday stress

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I hate to admit it, but I almost can’t wait until the holidays are over,” says Anna Rosario, a mom of two from Fort Greene in Brooklyn. “I am already stressed out!” Rosario feels the way many moms do at this time of year. She says the thought of having to get all the various tasks done — like decorating, shopping, cooking, wrapping, writing cards, and visiting extended family — is overwhelming. When you throw in the demands of raising kids, running a household, and working, it’s a sure-fire recipe for stress. But don’t throw in the towel just yet, because there are some practical tips to relieve holiday stress.

Maintain healthy habits

By keeping healthy eating habits, you will be better equipped to deal with stress, so make sure you are eating healthfully, as well as exercising and getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep is often an under-rated component of our health and one of the first things to go when stress hits. Likewise, skipping meals will make you more likely to overindulge later and will leave you feeling worse.

Ask for help

Enlist your spouse and kids to help plan the holiday gatherings, gifts and menus. Maybe your spouse can take over kitchen clean-up duties if you cook the meal. Maybe you can split the shopping down the middle, instead of you doing it all yourself. Make decisions together about who will accomplish each task, so there are no last minute hassles. Kids can help address cards, wrap presents, and decorate. Online shopping with your spouse (after the kids have gone to bed) can be a lifesaver, and most stores offer free shipping during the holidays.

Make a plan for dealing with extended family

Let’s face it, for many people, visiting extended family and in-laws are a large component of the holiday stress. Dr. Susan Bartell, a nationally recognized psychologist, and author of “The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask,” says maintaining a positive attitude is vital.

“The first thing you have to do before you go to a family gathering is focus on the positive and don’t obsess on what you hate and rehash old wounds. If you do, you’ll go in with a really negative attitude and look for stuff to complain about,” she advises.

Bartell also suggests taking small steps to make the day more pleasant. Maybe you can visit difficult in-laws but only stay for an hour or show up an hour late. She also says whatever you can do to dilute a tense situation helps, such as helping out in the kitchen or keeping the kids busy with things to do.

Make a shopping list before you go to the store

Identifying what gifts you want to purchase is the hard part. If you walk into the store with a list, it will enable you to get the shopping done fast. If you don’t, you might spend hours walking round aimlessly, feeling pressured to pick the right gift, and then end up choosing something you don’t really want.

Create a budget and stick to it!

If you spend too much, not only will it stress you out now, but it may cause long-term tension if you accumulate debt. Don’t think you have to get the most extravagant gift for everyone on your list. A recent survey conducted by research firm Toluna said that nearly half of respondents said a phone call to catch up is the best present a distant friend or family member could give them during the holiday season.

The holidays are about showing the people who are important to you that you care — and that is absolutely free.

Danielle Sullivan, a Brooklyn-born mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years, and was recently honored with a Gold award for her health column by the Parenting Media Association. Sullivan also writes for Babble. You can find her on her blog, Just Write Mom.

Updated 5:30 pm, December 9, 2016
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