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THIS YEAR, you should definitely relax and enjoy the holiday season.
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Between gift shopping, traveling, hosting, and meal-planning, the tasks tied to the holiday season can make you forget what it’s all about.This winter season, we want you to get back to enjoying time with family and friends and embracing the season of peace and joy. Incorporate these nine tips now to maximize your joy through the holidays and beyond.

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Go Out and Play 

Spending time outdoors boosts your mood and self-esteem while reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that even five minutes of light exercise outdoors – even walking – can have a major positive effect on your mood. Forest bathing,” or spending time completely surrounded by trees and other forms of nature, can even reduce symptoms of depression and ADHD. So take the dog for a walk through the park or find time for a brief hike on a wooded trail on the way home from the mall. Your mind will thank you!

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Make a List and Check It Twice

It’s really easy to get carried away around the end of December, especially by making unexpected extra purchases. Don’t let your impulse purchases get out of hand, even in the spirit of giving. Be like Santa – make a list and check it twice. Instead of keeping track of who’s naughty or nice, write down the names you intend to buy gifts for, then write down specific gift ideas or a price range near each person’s name. Cross the name off right away once you’ve made the purchase for that person. On the top of the page, write down a budgeted amount for all planned holiday purchases combined – not just the gifts – and do not go over that number.

On another part of the page, make separate lists for other holiday needs, too – food items, decor, you name it – so you know exactly what to buy.

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Shop Online or Locally

Skip the insanity of big-box shopping stores or shopping centers whenever possible. Sure, they have good holiday deals, but is it worth the aggravation of dealing with traffic or long checkout lines? Instead, buy as many gifts as you can online or by shopping in local, independent stores. Shopping locally also helps support your neighborhood and often results in more unique, personal gifts.

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Cut the Cleaning Frenzy

There’s no need to deep clean the whole house if you’re planning to host a holiday dinner. Stick to the public areas – kitchen, living room, bathroom and the hangout space – and save the off-limits areas for after the holidays. Instead of doing all the cleaning at once, break it down into a seven-day system, tackling one area each day. Enlist family members or roommates to make the tasks go by even more quickly.

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Ahh, For the Scent of Citrus

It may seem too simple, but it really works: Breathe in the aroma of a sliced lemon or orange to instantly create a sense of serenity or happiness. The scent of grapefruit can help reduce anxiety, too. Citrus essential oils or oil blends can be used in place of the actual fruits for a quick mood boost on the go.

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Take Care of Yourself

The holiday season may feel like a race to get everything accomplished in time – which means taking care of yourself is even more important. Make sure you get enough sleep – eight hours a day or more – and that you find time to exercise for one hour at least three to five days per week (if that seems impossible, even a quick 30-minute jog helps). Even though this is the season of overindulgence, practice moderation by eating healthy foods for most of your meals. This way, those cookies at the office won’t be such a big deal. Make time for “me time” – learn to say no to others when you need some time to yourself. If the only thing you feel like doing right now is sitting down with a cup of cocoa and a good book or movie, go for it. Savor the moment and practice gratitude. 

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Skip the Unnecessary Stress

Reflect on your biggest sources of aggravation during holiday gatherings and make a change. If you dread traveling to a distant relative’s or are simply sick of the same routine, do something different this year to alleviate the stress. Ask yourself “If this makes me miserable, why do I participate?” Write down reasons you think you should participate, as well as why you shouldn’t. If the old ways aren’t working, maybe it’s time for something new. Writing down the pros and cons can help you make a choice that will result in much more peace in the long run. 

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Focus on Your Own Mindset

So you’ve decided to go to dinner at the in-laws’ anyway, even though your brothers-in-law get into a shouting match every year. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the situation – or how you wish those two would change – work on your own mindset. Opt to have a positive attitude and realize that you and only you have power over your own emotions. Once you realize no one else can make you unhappy – only you can choose that – the door to happiness opens wide. Remember that you have the power to choose how much time you spend around toxic people, too, and that you are allowed to walk away from a conversation or to tell them that you disagree and simply move on. 

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Be Realistic

Sure, you may want to bake 12 different kinds of holiday cookies and transition your whole home from fall to winter, but can you fit that in without cutting something else out of your day? Be real with yourself. Ask for help cleaning, cooking or running to the store. Don’t overbook yourself, either – just say no to some of the seasonal invites and expectations.  Remind yourself that the holidays are not a contest to see who buys the most or best gifts, or who shows up at the most events.

Your health and sanity are some of the best gifts you can give yourself and ultimately others, because when you’re happy, your positive mood has a positive effect on everyone. Savor each moment and share experiences – rather than expensive gifts – with one another. In this day when we’re all glued to our phones and the internet, a little positive, personal interaction goes a long, long way.

How do you alleviate holiday stress? Let us know in the comments! 

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