Holiday Stress Busters

The holidays provide us with a great time to enjoy family and friends, and if we play our cards right, they can be remembered as a joyful, harmonious and relaxing time by everyone. If this year finds you experiencing some winter doldrums, this advice should revitalize your bah humbug spirit!

Reassess, and set your priorities. Holiday stress sets in when you try to do it all. Tell yourself, "If I have time, I'll do this and that. If not, I'll only do that."

Delegate! If the house needs cleaning or decorating let each family member be responsible for a room. Make a list of the jobs that need to be accomplished, put them in a grab bag, and then let everyone pick their chore. Even small children can pitch in and put away toys and straighten rooms.

Don't fall prey to the "I need it, I want it!" Syndrome. This familiar phrase can wear parents down over the holidays, but giving in to your child's every request can cause financial distress. Let your kids know that even Santa Claus has limited funds.

Another way to fight the hype and commercialism of the holidays is to borrow traditions from days gone by that don't cost any extra money. Bake cookies, go caroling, give to needy families, or volunteer. Explain to your kids that there are a lot of families who don't have as much as you do. To get kids into the spirit of giving, ask them to pick a few of their old toys to donate to the less fortunate.

Our country is at war, so the holidays are a good time to make up a care package and send it off to one of our service personnel overseas. Every time you start to feel a bit stressed, think of what they are dealing with on a daily basis.

Be realistic about relatives visiting this season, by having reasonable expectations for the short term. Don't try to solve past issues with family members over the holidays, this is not the time to bring up every little irritation. Keep thinking tidings of comfort and joy. If going to a certain relative's house every year causes a lot of stress, decide if you really need to do it. Maybe you can go every other year instead.

Being flexible can buy you precious time! How can you get anything done when the little ones are home on vacation and you only have a few days off? Take turns looking after kids with neighbors or colleagues, or hire a babysitter to take the kids to the movies or to play with them for a few hours while you're working around the house.

When your adult children or college age kids are coming home, you need to set limits for everyone concerned. A college student home for the holidays can wreak havoc on family routines. The disruption could be the college girlfriend who plans to sleep in your son's bed. Or maybe your daughter and son-in-law are bringing their puppy. Whatever the case, you'll need to set some ground rules in advance. Everyone needs to compromise during the visit, and it's best to openly communicate about what's what ahead of time. Respect goes a long way in both directions!