Holiday Stress Busters

Four strategies to make the season merry and bright.
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Get Real

Peace on Earth? Good will toward all? With your hyper-critical Aunt Katie on her way over, your wallet feeling the holiday pinch, and the baking only half done? No, really, it is possible -- with these tension-taming strategies.

We want to do it all -- make that five-course meal for 25, lavishly decorate the entire house, deliver fresh-baked banana bread to the neighbors, create needlepoint stockings for the children -- but halfway through we realize that a) there's no time to do it and b) perfection is a bear. Most of us have unrealistically high expectations for the holidays. Yes, you want it to be magical for your kids. But is it worth driving yourself crazy? To scale back a bit to reality, try these tips:

  • Have a don't-do list. "Pick five to-dos to pass on," recommends Jannette Shaw, Ed.D., a psychologist in South Bend, Indiana. Ask your kids what they didn't like last year -- such as stringing lights on the shrubs or hand-making cards -- and skip it.
  • Give yourself a reality check. Tack up some sayings to help gain a little perspective, such as "Christmas means family" or "Take it one day at a time," by your phone or your mirror, or use them as screen-savers, suggests Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., a psychologist in private practice in Westfield, New Jersey.
  • Rally the troops. When your kids start to moan, "I'm bored" on holiday break, point to the pile of fallen pine needles under the Christmas tree and the vacuum. Or when your sister-in-law asks, "What can I do to help?" have suggestions at the ready: "Would you rather boil the cranberries or polish the silver?"
  • Create a "Honey-Do List." Most men don't know where to begin when it comes to holiday planning, says Allen Elkin, Ph.D., director of the Stress Management Counseling Center, in New York City. Make a note with specific tasks ("wrap all Santa presents") with clear deadlines ("by the 24th at midnight"). Debbie Attar, 32, a stay-at-home mother in Chevy Chase, Maryland, makes her husband responsible for buying all the gifts for his side of the family. If he forgets, he can face their disappointment.

Continued on page 2:  Manage Money Woes


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