OK, not to be picture perfect for holidays

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Holiday season is upon us and it is supposed to be a time of family, togetherness, and joy! It only takes a quick peek at the magazines on the grocery store shelves to make you feel overwhelmed and stressed over the holiday season. Tables lined with scrumptious looking foods, mantles decorated with all the finest of things, tables set with set with matching linens, candles, and tableware all in fall or Christmas colors. Most of them even have name cards at each place setting!

Is this realistic for anyone? Perhaps it's realistic for Martha Stewart or Wonder Woman. The thing we must remember is that Martha Stewart is an enterprise and Wonder Woman is a cartoon!!!

As the average American woman, the majority of us do not have the time, patience or resources to make our holiday table "picture perfect", and we set our expectations too high. As a result we feel less tolerance for family and are unable to enjoy the time we have together. It is nearly impossible to eliminate all holiday-related stress. This holiday season get ready by setting realistic expectations and realize you are entitled to reduce stress in your life. Things aren't going to be perfect, and its o.k.!! Here are some suggestions on how to accomplish just that.

- Exercise and eat right. A healthy diet makes you less susceptible to stress and sickness.

- Sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to exhaustion and decrease your ability to manage stress. So you need at least 6 to 8 hours a night.

- Laugh. Do it EVERYDAY! Laughter increase relaxation and in turn can decrease stress. A good belly laugh also improves breathing and help digestion.

- Set priorities. Decide what is REALLY important and delegate the less important items.

- Do ONE thing at a time. Create a to-do list. Even if you are not a list-maker, please use this organizational tool during this one season. Chores, shopping and family visits are not the stressors -it's your anticipation of them that can seem overwhelming. Plan to tackle one or two things per day, you will accomplish more if you do one thing at a time and give it your full attention. Trying to multitask will only leave you with 5 things partially done. 

- Plan to cook when you have time - perhaps the weekends. Make soups or casseroles to freeze for enjoyment on hectic days. 

- Learn to say NO. Saying no during the holiday season isn't always easy, but you DO NOT have to accept every party invitation or always bake your infamous pie. Take on only as much as you feel you can handle. Think carefully about your motives for attending parties. Sometimes we can "over-book" ourselves during the holidays because we have a problem saying no. Just because you receive an invitation does not mean that you have to attend!

- Lower your expectations. If you aren't able to hire an interior decorator, the chances of you making your house look like the North Pole in time for your holiday gathering are slim. Realize that not every present is going to look like it was gift-wrapped at a department store and not every meal is going to be gourmet. You can eliminate a lot of stress by lowering the expectations you have of yourself and others.

- Ask for help. Unless you're able to replicate yourself, you probably can't do it all without feeling like you're being pulled in too many directions. The best way to get relief is to ask for help. If you are hosting a dinner, don't hesitate to ask for others to bring side dishes or desserts. They will not think of you as a horrible person!

- Let It Go. Holidays often drum up a lot of family baggage and unnecessary drama. Accepting your family for who they are and how they act, and learning to let things go, will do a lot as far as reducing stress. Some things just don't change, and the best way to deal with these challenges is to accept them and move on, as difficult as that may be.

- Plan your holiday spending. One of the largest stressors during holiday season is the extra money that is being spent, or that you feel the need to spend. Do a thorough assessment of why you are giving gifts. Don't feel pressured to give gifts. 

- Spend some time with your children….young children. If your children are grown, borrow the neighborhood children!! Thanksgiving and Christmas are a great time to bake cookies and children are so much fun to have as helpers in the kitchen. Experiencing the holidays through the eyes of a child reminds us of excitement and joyful anticipation. 

Remember that the purpose of the holidays is not to spend a lot of money or to outdo last year's host - it's a time to gather with loved ones. Don't let the holidays or life become something you dread. Instead use these steps mentioned to prevent stress and depression that can descend during the holidays or anytime. With some planning and positive thinking you may find that you enjoy life a lot better than you ever thought was possible.

Last, but certainly not least, take time for yourself during the holidays. Everyone needs time to recharge their battery! Remember….you aren't an enterprise, and you aren't a cartoon! Create your own family traditions and focus on family time and fun! 


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