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Six Practical Steps to Diminish Holiday Stress

Many believe that this is the most stressful time of the year for most people, men as well as women. Holiday preparations, planned vacations, gifts to buy, wrap and send, homes and yards to clean and decorate, bothersome relatives you "must" spend time with, kids home from school, end-of-the-year deadlines. Here are some practical strategies you can use to help moderate the stress.

  • Plan Ahead This is a lesson for next year, and other demanding times ahead. Make a list of everything that has to be done well in advance, then create a timetable for doing it, leaving some unscheduled time for unexpected delays or distractions. I try to buy as many holiday and birthday gifts as possible throughout the year, label and store them until needed.
  • Avoid Procrastination Do what you can as soon as you can. Undone chores hanging over your head are mind-cluttering and stressful; doing them creates a sense of relief and accomplishment.
  • Delegate Duties Divide up household chores among all members of the family old enough to talk. Ask some of your guests to contribute part of holiday meals. Hire people to do tasks that you find unpleasant or that can easily be "farmed out." Temporarily employ an assistant who can help with demands at work. There are lots of computer-savvy, ambitious young people out there who are eager to get job experience and earn some extra money.
  • Be Realistic An overblown notion of what can reasonably be accomplished in the time available is a common source of excessive stress. Eliminate time-consuming tasks that will add relatively little to holiday enjoyment or that can be done some other time or for another occasion. Plan holiday meals that normal people can be expected to consume. No one needs--and few want--a Roman feast. Do most of your shopping from catalogs or online; what you may pay for shipping will be far less than the cost of getting it yourself.
  • Grin & Bear It For those people you have to see but would rather not, like the aunt who is always telling you what to do, the brother-in-law who brags incessantly or the cousin who regales you with details about every one of her ailments, either ignore them or try to take them less seriously. See if you can find some humor instead of annoyance in the situation.

New York Times November 28, 2003

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