10 Ways to Fight Holiday Stress

There are stockings to hang, cookies to bake, and you’re freaking out. Relax this holiday season.

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December has begun and the holiday season is in full swing. We know you love the gift-wrapping, cookie-making, carol-singing joy of it all; but between the ribbon curling and party throwing, you still need to find time to deck your dingy halls, make your own holiday cards, and find the perfect, professional gift for your boss. Let’s be honest, sometimes the holidays can be a little, well, stressful. To which we stay, stop, take a deep breath, and know that it’s all going to be OK. VN serves up 10 no-fail stress-busters to keep you jolly all season long.

1. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel
Time-honored traditions are that way for a reason. So while it’s fun to create your own spin on the holidays, don’t take on too many new projects at once. Stick to the classics: Gather with the family and watch your favorite holiday movie, make the favorite holiday baked goods instead of attempting a new one that’s too complicated, and cook a classic dish for which you don’t even need a recipe. By relying on old favorites, you’ll be comforted knowing that these traditions work, and that not everything is going to blow up—even if it sometimes seems like it.

2. Know your limits
More often than not, the season of giving can turn into the season of endlessly saying “yes.” For your own sake, do not sign up for every bake sale, and try to keep at least some of the family get-togethers at your relatives’ homes. The same goes for your budget—sure, we’d all love to give everyone in the family a new iPhone, but is that really the best financial way to start out 2012? Probably not. Know your own budgetary limits. You’ll feel much more relaxed when you’re not stretching yourself, or your wallet, too thin.

3. Bake ahead
Of course, cookies are one of the best parts of the season. Who doesn’t love smothering everything in sight with frosting and sprinkles? Save yourself a little time in the kitchen and forego making a completely new batch every other night. Instead, take one Sunday afternoon and make a few batches of cookie dough, such as Beverly Lynn Bennet’s Sugar Cookie Dough recipe, and then freeze it. Later, you can thaw and bake darling little cookies, such as these snowflakes, in half the time.

4. Give a little back
Whether it’s letting someone cut in front of you in traffic or donating toys to charity, giving back can ease up stress during the holidays. You’ll feel better about yourself, about the holiday season in general, and about making a small difference. In fact, a study released in 2007 by the Corporation for National and Community Service found there is a strong connection between volunteering and good health—people with the philanthropic spirit literally have stronger hearts and lower rates of depression.

5. Adopt an animal
The winter can be especially harsh for homeless companion animals in need of good homes. If you and your family are ready to let a little furry friend into the mix, head to your local shelter and adopt! Not only will you feel warm inside from having saved the life of an animal, but a study from Clemson University found a positive correlation between regular interaction with animals and happiness. Not ready to take in a little one right now? Volunteer at a shelter by taking dogs for walks, cuddling kitties, or donate some much-needed pet food.

6. Eat well
While it’s tempting to taste everything you bake and indulge in rich dinners, make sure you’re eating at least one healthy meal each day. This will keep you feeling light, energized, and upbeat, and staying healthy will help keep your stress levels down. Try an Easy Antipasto Salad, a Seasonal Smoothie, or, of course, the never-fail green juice. Feeling a cold coming on in all the hustle and bustle? Be sure to take care of yourself, the whole-foods way.

7. Keep the house tidy
Amidst wrapping paper, bake-a-thons, and holiday card making, the house can become a tornado scene and induce a panic attack when it comes time to entertain. Take the 20 minutes to put away your crafts or wash the dishes, and you’ll save yourself a world of stress in the long run. Want to make your own cleaners instead of the chemical-laden store-bought brands? VegWeb has the solutions you need!

8. Let others help you
Whatever you do, don’t try to go at it alone. Whether it’s suggesting this year’s holiday party takes on a potluck theme or or asking your best friend to bring over a few bottles of vino, by asking, you can help others help you.

9. Remember to enjoy the holiday season
It only comes but once a year, make sure you are taking plenty of moments here and there to soak in the atmosphere, the music, the smells, and of course, your loved ones. All too often the holidays can fly by and you only have blurry digital photographs to remember it by. Instead, savor the moment and the season like you did when you were a kid, because before you know it, it’ll be gone.

11. Make time for you
In order to decompress you need to make a little time for you. Read a book, take a bath, go for a run, take that yoga class you haven’t been to in weeks, allow yourself a power nap, watch your favorite television show, and so forth. The point of all this is that you allow your brain to stop spinning for a little bit so that you feel recharged and ready to make the 2011 holiday season the best yet!

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