By Caitlin Ultimo While the holidays are a time of joy, they’re also one of the most hectic times of year. After all, it takes plenty of hard work to keep up that festive cheer (not to mention buy presents, prep those parties and clean up the messes!). But that doesn’t mean you have to give in to the stress. Make your holidays stress-free by keeping these three stress management tips in mind, and you’ll not only accomplish everything on your holiday list — but enjoy the time, too! Tip No. 1: Plan ahead One of the biggest contributors to a holiday headache is leaving things to the last minute. That includes party prep, gift shopping and wrapping. Be realistic with what you can achieve when planning a get-together: Remember that you don’t have to make, bake or buy everything on your own. Family and friends usually enjoy pitching in, whether that means bringing dessert or extra napkins.

It also helps to get a jump on your holiday gift list. That’s right: Put pen to paper or finger to keypad and write up everyone you need to shop for, with ideas for each one. And as you begin to purchase, it doesn’t hurt to start wrapping. Doing a little at a time will fend off a frantic eleventh-hour wrap-a-thon. Tip No. 2: Stick to a budget That top-dollar toy or party isn’t worth busting your budget — and incurring a stocking full of debt. Decide on a total amount you want to spend on gifts, party food and supplies, as well as your family’s holiday wardrobe. Then scout out when those must-haves will be at the lowest price. If you wind up spending a little more on, say, presents, scale back on another category. Finally, remember: The holidays are based on love and family — two priceless things that you already own. Tip No. 3: Keep up healthy habits Having a hard time remembering your to-do, gift and grocery lists? Stress and exhaustion may be behind your forgetfulness. Take a breath and relax. Just because there are more events to attend than usual, it doesn’t mean you should forget about the things you used to do for yourself pre-December. If you’re skipping your regular walk or yoga class in the name of getting things done, remember to make time for yourself. Consider scheduling a healthy non-holiday gathering with your friends, like a group jog or exercise class. And don’t forget to give yourself a present, whether it’s a relaxing massage or afternoon at the movies. You deserve it!

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