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Stress? What Stress?
How to Stay Calm and Collected During the Most Hectic Time of the Year

When it comes to the holiday season, you can rarely find a bigger gap between fantasy and reality. The fantasy: Several generations of closely-knit relatives gather in love and joy to share a special time together, opening the perfect gifts and eating sumptuous meals prepared from scratch, the recipes carefully handed down through the years. The reality: You're stuck in a house with a bunch of relatives you barely know - some of whom you don't particularly like. You're swimming in credit card debt with all you've spent on presents, most of which will probably go unappreciated. At dinner the tensions between said relatives is so dense that you can barely enjoy the meal. If you made dinner yourself, you're just glad if you didn't burn it. And we haven't even mentioned the drunken office party, the various commitments you have to squeeze in between the trips to the mall and the fact that, in the middle of it all, the water heater exploded. No wonder a Prevention/ NBC Dateline poll showed that over a third of respondents put the holidays on par with job interviews - not exactly a fun, relaxing experience!

(Article continued below.)

The holidays are a very hectic time of year - there's no way around that. But that doesn't mean you have to dread December. If you put the holiday season into the proper perspective, you'll be able to relieve a good portion of the stress and even enjoy some gloriously carefree moments. Instead of thinking "merry," think "mindful."

Above everything else, remember the true meaning of the holidays. This is different for everyone - for some people, it has a more religious connotation. For others, it's the opportunity to spend time with family, either blood relatives or extended family. Many see it as a time of giving, a wish for peace, a chance to express joy. The true meaning of this time of year is not trying to have the biggest, best light display in your front yard, spending all your paycheck to buy trendy gifts or impressing others with your elaborate feasts, generosity or achievements of the past year. You would think this is only common sense, so true it barely needs saying, but be honest - how often have your holidays been about the latter items and not the former? Bring your holidays back to the basics and you'll be a lot happier.

The holidays are about goodwill and sharing. If running a hundred and one errands and taking on too many obligations is going to make you snap at those around you, then you're not spreading goodwill. Keep in mind that you don't have to do absolutely everything everyone asks of you. Relax. The world will still go on if you say no occasionally. Learn the fine art of delegation. You do not have to do everything yourself. Will it make or break your holiday if the nuts aren't chopped exactly the way you like them, or if the decorations aren't perfect? Others will notice your behavior far sooner than they will your less-than-spotless windows (and if they're the type who do notice that sort of thing, perhaps they're not worth pleasing).

Do you really need to attend every party you're invited to? If the thought of attending one more party makes you frantic, then just stay home. Have a cup of hot chocolate, read a book or watch a video, let your voice mail take messages. A lot of people don't even like parties. If you're one of them, then just attend those that are absolutely necessary and send your regrets to the rest. You don't need any excuse - after all, we're all busy this time of year, right? It's no one's business if you just want to have a night in.

Next page >> More Thoughts on Holiday Stress >> Page 1, 2

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