The holiday season has kicked off in its usual high voltage style. What will you do to manage the demands of work, family and sometimes ‘impossible’ expectations?

In today’s text-driven, multi-tasking world you are most likely wondering how you will find time in your already packed schedule for holiday activities, your job, your family and yourself!

Take a breath and review these five stress-busters to help bring in the yuletide merriment.

1. Don’t buy gifts out of guilt and avoid overspending.
Be realistic about how much money you want to spend for the holidays, avoid running up a large credit card bill and stick to your plan. Recognize guilt and overspending for what they are, and if you feel tempted to splurge excessively, take a 24-hour moratorium from purchasing. Go home, think about the purchase, talk it over, and if you want to go back to the store later, you can, but don’t give into impulsive overspending right away.

2. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with everyone else.
Fortunately for all of us, the holidays are not a rat race with a cosmic judge doling out awards for who “does” the best in the maze. But sometimes it feels like we are competing in a contest, doesn’t it? It can be deceptively easy to talk yourself into buying one more decoration for the yard because a neighbour has new ones, one more gift for a child because someone else bought it, and baking a batch of cookies like someone else’s mom. Be content with the plans you’ve made and don’t let others make you feel inadequate.

3. Hold on to your health and fitness regimes.
The holidays are a time to celebrate, and boy, do we make the most of it. We eat, we drink, we indulge and then we end up feeling like bloated whales by the time it’s all over. It’s almost an unspoken rule that, with the holidays, comes unlimited eating and missed workouts, but this year, you have a choice.
You don’t have to let every party become your own personal eating contest, and you don’t have to let shopping take the place of your usual exercise routine. All it takes is flexibility, creativity and a new way of defining exercise.

Exercise will help you deal with added stress and give you energy for everything you need to accomplish. It will also help you manage your weight through the maze of parties and gatherings you’ll be attending. If you have trouble sticking with your usual routine this time of year, come up with a new one. Forget the rules, lower your standards and do whatever you need to do to keep moving.

4. Avoid toxicity.
Don’t let the unexpected ruin your attitude. We are bombarded with media images of perfect holidays and perfect families. But truly, what is ever ‘perfect’? All families argue, all families are unique in their own way and this is and always has been the norm. Inevitably, something will happen to you this holiday season that is taxing and unexpected or someone will say something. Don’t let it rattle you – get through it and move on.
If you need to count to ten, vent, or go to your room and take a time out, do it. Don’t let your bad mood rain down on everyone else’s parade and ruin their holiday. Likewise, beware the toxic people you interact with who carry gloom and doom like a badge of honor during the holidays.

5. Focus on people and having quality experiences.
It can be very easy to rush through the holiday season. Find ways to deliberately spend time with your family and build traditions together. Old holiday stand-bys like making ornaments, baking, preparing a meal, or going carolling can help build traditions and a shared family history.
Extend your focus on people to others around you who need some holiday cheer. Think about the sales clerk behind a register all day who appreciates a kind word, the elderly lady next door who needs help shovelling her sidewalk, or the couple down the street with the new baby who’ll appreciate a few of your Christmas cookies.

You can avoid stress and have a joyous holiday season. And you might even make it to New Year’s with your sanity intact.