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The holidays are a great time to reconnect with family and friends and to anticipate the joy of family at Christmas and Kwanzaa due to your efforts. But it can also be the most stressful time of the year as many of us are cooking, cleaning, making travel plans for ourselves and others, and sometimes being forced to be around people for extended periods of time that we either have difficulty getting along with or unresolved issues with.

How can you keep the happy in Happy Holidays and truly enjoy your loved ones? Here’s our guide to how to make the holidays stress-free.

 

MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

 

Is this your idea of the perfect Christmas family? But your family can barely be in one room together, never mind coordinate a whole photo shoot? Don’t let social media dictate how you enjoy your holidays. Yes, celebrities, reality TV stars and your irritating perfect neighbors with the annual Christmas light display look great…from the outside.

You don’t know their reality or what it took to get to that place. Don’t stress yourself if your family doesn’t wear matching pajamas or you don’t have a nuclear family unit. Just try to do your best to have a holiday you enjoy. If you’re alone, use the time to detox from social media and catch up on reading or rest. Or volunteer, which will go a long way towards lifting your spirits. If you’re facing a loss or other family crisis, don’t try to do too much, and focus your holiday on healing and uplifting each other, instead of going crazy buying gifts no one is in the mood to enjoy.

TAKE TIME FOR SELF:

 

The holiday hustle can be taxing, but it’s still important to take time for self. If that means just shutting the bathroom door, turning off the phone and indulging in a good soak, a few hours at the golf course or getting a mani/pedi, make sure you schedule in that time. Once the holiday are in full swing, it will be harder to get that time so make sure you literally add it into your schedule.

EXERCISE

 

It’s likely the last thing on your mind but exercise can help clear your head and reduce your holiday stress. If you already have a fitness regimen, try to add an extra session or do something different – a yoga or Pilates class or something else relaxing. Many cities and fitness places also offer meditation classes and sometimes they are free.

BE REALISTIC ABOUT MONEY

 

If you don’t have it, you don’t have it. While you’re running around worrying about what to buy your kids, the lesson you might be teaching them is that material things are more important than love or family. If you know you can’t get every item on their list, pick one and encourage your children to do something as a family – maybe volunteer, or do something free – many cities have a schedule of Kwanzaa events that are low to no-cost.

Also, most cities have blocks that decorate their homes or light shows or similar events, that are also free. Remember that there is a reason for the season, and that reason is not just money, shopping and material things.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY

 

Sometimes despite your best efforts, you can’t be with family during the holiday or they can’t be with you. That’s where Facebook Live, Instagram, group text and group Facetime comes in handy, along with newer options like Echo and Alexa, and Facebook’s new video chatting device, Portal. If you can’t all sit down to dinner, you can at least share some family time via these devices. You can also share photos with family via the Cloud if you have an iPhone or via Amazon Photo sharing. 

You can also post video on Instagram and on stories and tag each other to e-share the holiday.

DON’T FORGET DATE NIGHT

 

No matter how stressed you get, make some time, if you have a significant other, to bond with that person, even if its just a Starbucks date. It will get you some alone time that doesn’t involve shopping, running errands or figuring out how to pay for the holidays. If you can’t get away together, try a staycation at a local hotel.

Or let your family have the house and you go to a hotel nearby. The important thing is to catch up and bond so you can share some of the stress. If you’re fortunate enough to have a good partner, enjoy him/her and don’t let that go no matter how busy the holiday gets.

PHOTO: ThinkStock

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