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Don't Let Holiday Season Stress Get You Down -- Start Preparing Now

That's why now is the time to prepare, before everything kicks into high gear and you feel completely overwhelmed. Here are a few ways to do it.
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It's just about that time of year again. The holiday season is almost here. It's an exciting time of the year for a lot of people as they look forward to these next few months all year long. It starts with Halloween, then Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas and New Year's.

The joy and excitement that many of us feel isn't shared by everyone. The holidays bring plenty of stress with them, and before you know it, it can throw you off your game and leave you feeling fatigued and overwhelmed. There's financial stress. There's the stress of travel, hosting the in-laws, the cooking and cleaning. There's the stress for anyone on a diet to remain compliant to their weight loss goals. There's the stress of trying to set New Year's resolutions and actually sticking to them. There's so much going on at once and it can easily stress people out.

That's why now is the time to prepare, before everything kicks into high gear and you feel completely overwhelmed.

Here are a few ways to do it.

Have a game plan
No matter what stresses you out about the holidays, if you don't have a game plan to deal with it, it's going to be even more difficult to handle. Think out every situation that you struggle with, and come up with a plan that outlines exactly how you're going to make it through.

Do you tend to overspend? Make a list of people you want to buy for, set a budget, and don't go over by even a penny. Start to put a little extra money aside this next month to give yourself a cushion.

Do you overeat at the holidays? How are you going to combat that this year? Maybe make the decision to make one plate at Thanksgiving instead of two or three. Make a commitment to jog around the neighborhood before the festivities start. Perhaps preparing a regular side of mashed potatoes and then a low-fat side of potatoes is an option. You must have a plan.

Seek alone time
Even for the extroverts among us, the holidays can be tolling. Seeking solitude and getting some quiet time is good advice whether it's the holidays or any other time of the year. Perhaps the kids are misbehaving and getting under your skin. Maybe you're hosting Christmas at your home and the place looks like a train came through. Or maybe, you're trying to get into the spirit of the season, but your mind is stuck on that work project that you're way behind on.

Whatever the case, take 30 minutes a day to be by yourself and do something that you find fun and relaxing. Maybe it's finding a quiet place and watching the trees blow in the wind. Maybe it's pounding a bucket of golf balls at the driving range. Maybe it's painting and listening to some quiet music. Whatever works for you, make sure to nurture yourself and focus on your own well-being. This rest and recovery strategy will clear your mind and help you deal with everything in front of you during the holidays.

You can't be everywhere and be everything to everyone
The holidays come with a lot of demands. There's the school parties, the family get-togethers, the winter trip, the elaborate dinners and more. There's so much to attend to but only so much time in a day. This is especially tough for people who have a hard time saying 'no.' What you have to remember is saying 'no' isn't telling someone you don't like them or you don't want to spend time with them. To make it easier, here is how to structure the 'no' response.

"I would love to come to your party, but we already have plans that evening. Perhaps we can get together another time."

The key to saying 'no' is being nice about it. Thank the person for thinking of you and asking you to take the time to do whatever it is they are offering, apologize that you are unable to because of another commitment, and leave it open to revisit in the future. Most importantly: don't feel bad or beat up on yourself for turning people down.

Keep a strict schedule
Whether you keep to a strict schedule the rest of the year or not, the holidays are one time that keeping a set schedule will help you feel better and less stressed. You can do it on your phone, computer or even on a handheld calendar. I recommend one that lists each day and then shows the hours in the day.

Whether it's something as important as Christmas dinner or something small like driving your son to baseball practice, write it in your calendar. There's a lot going on this time of year, and having it all right there for you planned out for your eyes to see is going to make it feel a bit more manageable. It will also ensure you don't double book your time.

The takeaway
The holiday season can often feel overwhelming, stressful and chaotic. As we come into November and you start to think about what gifts you want to buy or what food will be served at Thanksgiving dinner, also think about how you are going to mentally prepare and deal with the stress.

The truth is the holidays are a time to spend with friends and family and truly be grateful for all that we have. So, take control and sort out the details ahead of time so you are in the right state of mind to enjoy it all.