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21 Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year—but also one of the most stressful! Make the season more enjoyable by stopping stress in its tracks with these expert tips.

With the gift-giving, the cooking, the decorations and the parties, the holidays can seem to be more like work than a holiday.

Here’s how to make the most of your Christmas

1 Seek a fresh perspective.

Make a change. Take one task that drives you crazy during the holidays and tackle it in a new way. A fresh approach just might make a difference. For example, if you dread having to send out holiday cards, enlist your husband and split the list.

2 Be satisfied with "good enough."

Don't always go for bigger and better, when planning your Christmas, Does the tree have to be totally perfect with not a bauble out of place? Will it add anything to your day?

3 Throw away your shopping list.

Forgo the stress of shopping for family members in favour of sharing special moments and experiences. Treat loved ones to a show, for example, breakfast at a fancy hotel or Afternoon tea. Instead of having a package to rip open, have a wonderful day together

4 Drop expensive, high-stress rituals

If you're dragging your kids off to see The Nutcracker—it's a tradition!—but they're whining every step of the way, make a switch. True, families thrive on traditions, but it's less about the event itself, which your kids may have outgrown, and more about time together. If your kids are complaining, drop expensive, high-stress rituals in favour of something simple and universally appealing, like a Christmas Eve chocolate-chip cookies and hot chocolate

5 Focus on what's most important.

That massive pile of holiday cards needs to get mailed ASAP, but just the thought of it gives you writer's cramp? Refocus on what's most important to you, If you're overwhelmed with dozens of cards to send out, ask yourself, Which are the 10 most important ones? Send those and tell everyone well in advance you are making a donation to charity instead

6 Smell some lemons.

Barrelling through throngs of shoppers on the hunt for a last-minute gift? Step up to the perfume counter, peruse the testers and dab on a lemony fragrance. According to researchers, lemon scents instantly boost your mood.

7 Remember to have fun.

As you take part in trimming the tree or preparing the Christmas pudding with your family, take a deep breath and savour the moment. Give yourself permission to forget about all those tasks still left on your to-do list.

8 Choose travel-proof gifts.

With security restrictions at airports being what they are and everyone packing so much in the car, why make it hard on yourself? Give gift certificates. Or post your gifts ahead of time. Order gifts online and have the company send them directly, lots of companies will even gift wrap them for you. Either way, you'll save room in your suitcase.

9 Hold on to daily rituals.

If you like to read for half an hour before bed, don't give it up in favour of yet another holiday chore. Our everyday practices help calm and centre us, which much needed over Christmas

10 Schedule a break.

During the busy Christmas season seek out one afternoon of serenity. Go for a drive to the coast, walk the dogs, blow the cobwebs out. Make it s a peaceful time, don't worry about rushing anywhere. Can't escape for a whole afternoon? Then head outdoors for a refreshing change of scene. Bundle up and walk to the post-box to drop off Christmas cards, or take a starlit night time stroll thro to view the holiday lights in your area

11 Do something that makes you happy.

Adding, rather than deleting, something from your to-do list can make Christmas feel less hectic. One little high spot, just for you!

12 Stock up on gift wrapping supplies.

Buy multiples of tape, extra gift tags and more wrapping paper than you think you'll need. Nothing is more frustrating than running out of supplies with the job half done, and you can always save the leftovers for next year.

13 Don't hesitate to ask for help.

In fact, guests prefer to take on some small tasks, instead of standing around while you attempt to do everything yourself. Ask an older relative if he'd mind greeting guests at the door. Recruit teens to take coats or offer drinks. Kids may direct guests to the buffet table or offer hors d'oeuvres.

14 Stick with the tried and tested.

A special gathering is not the time to experiment with a new recipe. Just do what you know how to do and can do well, keep the table setting simple, adding a seasonal touch with a single Christmas centrepiece and festive napkins. Focus on the fellowship of the people you're gathering with, and don't stress out on the preparations and menu

15 Know when to say no.

Only say yes to meaningful events that focus on the holiday and bring the whole family together. Can't say no? Then keep your gatherings small and intimate. Get together with a few of your closest friends or relatives for Christmas. Choose to throw the big blowout parties at another time of the year, when you and your guests will have fewer commitments competing for your precious time.

16 Go Monochrome.

A brainless, stress-free way to decorate is to chose a colour (red, green, blue) and run with it, For example, turn a simple bouquet of red carnations into an eye-catching arrangement by adding red glass gemstones to a vase and a few drops of red food colouring to the water.

Or white roses and use cranberries in the vase.

17 Prep for holiday dinner guests.

Every time you make a meal for your husband and kids in the weeks before Christmas, double the recipe and freeze half, that way, when guests visit you can serve a home-cooked meal in minutes.

18 Use the 30-minute rule.

Sure, you want your home to look great for guests, but don't fall prey to holiday house fever. That's when you try to do too much in too little time, Cross off anything on your household prep list that will take more than a half-hour to do. The goal is to spiff up the house a little, not turn it into a showroom.

19 Enjoy treats the right way.

Too much added sugar can cause blood sugar highs and lows, leaving you feeling more anxious and less able to handle stress. But that doesn't mean seasonal sweets are completely off-limits. Small changes can significantly reduce your overall sugar intake. Try eating just one cookie or a sweet instead of a handful so you can have a taste without overdoing it. (Place your treat on a plate, then walk away from the rest of the goodies so you aren't in sight of more temptations.) Also, when cooking, make no-sugar-added choices

20 Sneak in a (quick) sweat outside.

It's worth it to brave the cold—especially because you don't have to stay out too long to reap the benefits, Studies have found that heading outdoors to exercise is more enjoyable than doing the same activity while cooped up inside, and you'll feel a lift in your mood after just 5 minutes. Working out is also one of the best ways to bust anxiety: Research shows that it promotes the release of endorphins, which act like a tranquilizer on the brain. Plus, exercise blunts the effects of stress hormones like Cortisol. Go for a family stroll before or after dinner, or set your morning alarm 20 minutes earlier to fit in a walk.

21 Let it all out.

Bottling up your stress for too long can lead to health issues such as back pain (from excessive muscle tension) and a weakened immune system. So it's crucial to find a release that works for you. One suggestion: Go to a private spot, such as your car, and scream for about 5 seconds. Yes, seriously. It's like letting out steam from a teakettle. If screaming isn't for you, try a few minutes of dancing, singing (put on some holiday tunes!) or deep breathing.

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