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8 Early Holiday Tips To Keep You Sane -- And Less Stressed

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STRESSFUL HOLIDAY DINNER
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What's that famous quote about the definition of insanity? The one that had something to do with repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome? Well, there's probably no better example of insanity than what happens to us around the holiday time. Year after year we do the same things that result in us being miserable, stressed out and mad at ourselves for knowing better. And so, in following the lead of retailers everywhere who insist on putting up their Christmas items before Halloween, here goes our list of eight things we hope we don't do (again) this holiday season.

1) Don't spend too much.
Who among us hasn't had the January hangover that comes from over-spending? As much as we'd like to see the economy stimulated from a robust shopping season, we just know in our gut that we can't afford it. More than that, spending feels more like gluttony in a season that is supposed to be about something more joyous.

Instead, why not agree in advance that you won't be exchanging gifts with every office co-worker, every relative, every one who you know? All those small gifts start to add up and before you know it, you've wracked up a credit card bill that makes your stomach do flip-flops. Now is a great time to have that "let's not exchange gifts" conversation because as we know, the holiday shopping season officially begins in July nowadays.

2) Don't entertain in a way that is more work than fun.
We love to cook and have people over. But boy is it ever work to shop, clean, cook and clean up again. The re-emergence of the potluck dinner was probably the one good thing that came out of the recession, so don't be afraid to ask people to bring a side dish or dessert -- or even a main course. And as for the clean-up, learn to say "yes" when your guests offer to help. Four hands in the kitchen gets the job done twice as fast as two.

Also stick to your own entertaining schedule and lifestyle. If what you enjoy most is Sunday brunch, then don't throw a Saturday night cocktails and dinner party. We have a friend who says she won't enjoy herself if her feet hurt so she refuses to wear anything but her comfy UGGs; when we go there for dinner, I know it will be casual dress -- Saturday night or otherwise.

3) Don't have inflated family expectations.
Yes, your great-aunt is going to say your turkey is dry because that's what she says every year. Someone else will ask if you've put on some weight or want to know why you are still in that job you hate so much. Take deep breathes and remember they mean well. And for the ones who don't, well, where is it written that you have to invite them next year?

Ridding your life of the people who suck the air out of the room for you is the best gift you can give yourself. Sorry if that sounds like something you'd read on Facebook. It happens to be true.

Last year, someone we know decided to sit out Christmas week on a beach in Hawaii. They skipped the gift-giving and surfed on Christmas Eve. Best holiday ever, they said after. When it comes to fight or flight, sometimes fleeing works best.

4) Don't say "yes" to everyone.
You can't please everyone, so why try? This is the season when people tend to throw more parties, arrange more events, make more demands on your time. Just say no. Get real. Not every "group" in your life -- carpool moms, soccer team moms, bridge club, book club, golfing buds -- needs to have a special holiday gathering. You see half these people on a regular basis anyway, so can't you just say "happy holidays" at your next pilates class and skip the group lunch after?

5) Don't exempt your employer from #4.
Many of us secretly wish that the money the company spends on the office holiday banquet was instead deposited in our paychecks. If you feel this way, urge your company to think "holiday bonus" instead of party. We already spend more time each week with our co-workers than we do with our spouses and children. Or, if an employer really insists on giving workers a holiday treat, how about at least doing it on the work-clock instead of after-hours?

6) Don't stay up past your bedtime if doing so leaves you a wreck the next day.
If you love your synagogue's Chanukah concert, by all means go. But if the idea of staying out until 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night when you have work the next day means you'll be a basket case, then sit by the exit and leave by 9:30 p.m.

The older we get, the more we appreciate early week-nights. We are happy to put on our dancing shoes on weekends, but we know some folks who just flat out say 'No" to all things during the week.

7) Don't follow the crowds.
This is just common sense: Fighting for parking spots, waiting in long lines, feeling suffocated by the in-a-hurry masses -- none of that is good stuff. It raises your stress level, wastes your time, and in general zaps your soul. Don't hit the mall at peak shopping hours. Shop online, patronize small local merchants who gift wrap for free. And instead of seeing the "Nutcracker" at the big arts center in the city, maybe the local community version would be more enjoyable, not to mention convenient.

8) Don't forget to add a little spirituality in the holiday experience.
Whether it be in a church, mosque, synagogue or your favorite easy chair, stop and smell the roses. Be grateful for what you have; be generous with what you share.

This story appears in Issue 79 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Dec. 13in the iTunes App store.

Earlier on HuffPost50:

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