HOW TO TAKE THE STRESS OUT OF THE HOLIDAYS

The holidays don't have to stress you out. You can have a holly jolly Christmas with more "ho, ho, ho" and less "go, go, go," says top psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Pietropinto. Here are the doctor's simple tips for de-stressing the holiday:

Rent some Christmas videos
Invite friends over or share a movie night with your family. Watching timeless classics like "White Christmas," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street," help us relax and remember what Christmas is all about.

Trim down your shopping list
You don't need to buy an excessive number of gifts. Make an agreement with family members to limit the exchange to one gift per person.

Cut back on your Christmas card list
Drop folks you haven't seen or thought about in years. Send cards only to people who are really close to you.

Take a vacation day
If you can manage it, take a day or two off from work so that you can relax and do your Christmas chores at a leisurely pace. If you're a homemaker, get someone to watch your kids for an afternoon.

Build on your past successes
Think back on Christmases that went well and figure out what made them good -- then try to recapture that. Usually, it's the family and friends around you, the good times you had -- not the presents you received.

Don't go crazy on the wrapping
The kids are going to tear it off in seconds anyway. So use simple paper and labels -- or just labels and no wrapping at all.

Don't skip meals
If you skip lunch or dinner on your way to shop, blood sugar levels will drop and make you feel even more tired and taxed. Eat a snack at your 4pm coffee break or a bowl of soup in the mall food court before you hit the stores.

Watch what you drink
Even mild overindulgence can give you a next-day low, adding to your feelings of being overwhelmed. Then you can make the mistake of drinking too much coffee, which can make you feel jittery and disrupt your sleep.

Do what feels good
Does chocolate pick you up? Have one. Such foods in small doses won't hurt and may even help by making you feel less stressed or deprived.

Get enough sleep
Too many late night parties, Christmas concerts and wrapping and baking marathons will seriously deplete your ability to handle stress.

Read a favorite Christmas story
Find a quiet corner, a cup of cocoa and favorite blanket and curl up and read the story you most loved as a child. Try "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

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