Stress relief tools are an important key to a happy holiday season. One of my top ten holiday memories is celebrating Christmas Eve with my niece. Our tradition was eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant then determining which home won the “Tacky Christmas Light Tour.” We drove around several streets picking the over-decorated contenders before determining the winner. I remember her sweet laughter and genuine excitement when looking forward to spending Christmas Eve with Aunt Lisa. This was a very effortless tradition that wraps my heart with love each holiday season. This experience has taught me something so simply done can bond family members for years to come. How can you beat holiday stress and keep your sanity?  Here are four stress management tips to help you through the holiday season:

Tip# 1Plan Ahead-Maybe we should take notes from Santa about checking his list twice. Here’s a hint that I do frequently, not just during the holidays. Begin by randomly writing down tasks or activities planned. Once you’ve finished the list, divide the tasks into projects. This will help you clearly see what you can complete ahead of time. Lists are made to be tweaked. You can carry a mini-recorder with you to quickly make sure an idea gets on the list. And, there are smart phone applications that can capture and record those genius holiday ideas, too. Shop online and have gifts delivered for you. Sure, you may be spending a little extra for wrapping and shipping but do compare how much your time and sanity is worth per hour.

Tip# 2- Examine your expectations realistically. Do time-honored traditions still hold that very special place in your heart? Or are traditions done “just because” the activity has been done for years? One tradition that I hold dear each holiday season is making turkey stuffing. Not just any recipe but one that has been passed down from my father. The smell that fills the house evokes sweet memories of those childhood moments in the kitchen with my father. This recipe makes enough stuffing to feed a small army so I make it in manageable batches. This is a great example of carrying on the tradition but not making so much stuffing that I spend all morning in the kitchen.

Tip# 3- Ask for help. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Asking for help can be the most difficult words to pass your lips during the holidays. There couldn’t be a bigger stress relief tool than reaching out to others for help. Before you hit your fatigue or temper level, take a break and re-examine if you have to do the task by yourself. Not asking for help could rob a family member from contributing to an activity that may later be a treasured memory. So, before you don your cape for a super hero day, take a deep breath and share with your loved ones to create lasting memories.

Tip# 4- Take time for you. Maintain as much of a regular routine as possible during this very busy season. Keep your regular sleep routine and avoid marathon gift wrapping or cooking activities. Keep up with your yoga or meditation practice as much as possible.  And, of course, schedule a massage for a minimum of thirty minutes to relieve your stress or eliminate a painful neck or back.

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