THE BLOG
12/27/2013 11:20 am ET Updated Feb 23, 2014

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, "The holidays present a dizzying array of demands -- parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name a few." This is just the tip of the iceberg. Even with an enormous amount of online shoppers, it's almost impossible to find a parking space in the mall, navigate traffic to and from a destination or check out of a store in less than an hour during special holiday sales.

Here are five suggestions from the Mayo Clinic's list to help you not only survive, but thrive through the holidays and beyond.

1. Take especially good care of yourself.
Holidays can be very time consuming and downright exhausting! In order to check off everything on our to-do list, we often sacrifice our own well-being. Daily exercise that keeps us feeling strong may take a back seat to another shopping trip. Grabbing a cheeseburger at a drive-through is quicker than cooking a nutritious meal. Getting a few hours less sleep can't be so harmful. And a couple more glasses of wine can't be so bad. Soon energies wane, body aches creep in and we wonder how we got that winter cold again.

Staying healthy, energetic and optimistic for life means to take time every day for you. Continue to do what has kept you strong and vital throughout the year. Even a short 15 minute span of time -- without distraction -- is energizing. Connect with nature via a short walk. Take a power nap. Watch a funny movie or sitcom. Indulge in your favorite meditation CD or download and zone out for a few minutes.

2. Put a cap on holiday spending.
During the holidays, we tend to throw budgets out the window." With easy access to credit cards, generosity seems to swell like the Grinch's heart, as we override our logical mind and think, "I can pay this off next year." Then the bill comes in. That's when the excitement of buying may quickly turn into the remorse of having to pay.

Instead of buying impulsively, make a list before you leave the house. Commit to staying within your budget. Decide how much you can comfortably afford to spend -- before you walk into the store or go online -- and stick to that amount. A wide-eyed child doesn't stop to consider how much a toy costs. He or she is fascinated by tearing open the package and moving onto the next gift. And if anyone judges you by how much you spend, you will never be able to please them. People who really care do not judge. They are grateful for the time and effort it took for you to give them a present -- whatever it is. Remember, it really is the thought that counts.

3. Let go of unrealistic expectations.
Norman Rockwell paintings of family bliss in mid-century, with several generations sitting around the dinner table, may not exist for you today. In a mobile society, families change, grow, and live great distances from each other. Time constraints, weather and budget may make a holiday visit too difficult. Instead of being depressed about their absence, make someone else's holiday a little happier. If your children can't be with you this year, volunteer to feed other children in your community.

"What goes around, comes around," is so appropriate here. Want to lighten your mood? Make someone else happy. You can feel sorry for yourself because your family is spread out across the globe, or you can be grateful the Internet affords you ways to stay in contact. A Skype call is not the same as a warm hug from your son or daughter, but it gives you a way to talk to your loved ones and even see their smiling faces.

4. Accept others just the way they are.
Those family members who don't quite get with the holiday spirit have probably acted the same way for years. The holiday table is not the place to try and get them to change, which there is little hope for anyway, unless change is their idea. Even if it's just for this short time, allow others to be who they are, realize they may be stressed as well, and spend your energy enjoying the happy, loving people around you.

5. Clearly define what "holiday" means to you.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, "In Great Britain the word 'holiday' has the same meaning as vacation. Many Americans would find this comparison laughable." The most important thing to remember around the holidays is that even though it may look like everyone else is having a great time, we are pretty much all the same. If you are feeling stressed, so is your neighbor, your friend, your spouse, your co-worker.

Enjoy the beautiful music and pageantry of the holidays. Spend time with positive, energetic people. Acknowledge your feelings, good or not so good, take especially good care of yourself and relax into the warmth and joy of the season. Happy Holidays!