Have you ever noticed how many people are sick around the holidays? Illness results when we become overly stressed from trying to squeeze too many activities into our already hectic schedules. What is supposed to be a joyful, spiritually based time of year gives way to stress-related illness, short tempers, frantic activities and overeating. If you want to have the best holiday season ever, follow the tips below.

1. Underpromise
List all the holiday events and activities that you feel obligated to do. Place these in priority order. Commit to completing the top 75 percent and let go of the bottom 25 percent. Place your commitment in writing and then stick to it. If you must add something to the list, decide what item(s) you are willing to drop.

2. "No" is a complete sentence
You have a limited amount of time to squeeze in the activities you must complete. Make your personal activities a priority. If someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do, smile and say, "No." There’s no need to explain why you aren’t available. If the person making the request pressures you, simply say, "I have another commitment." It makes no difference if the commitment is to go home and put your feet up.

3. Focus on what you "need to do" vs. what you "want to do"
If you feel tired or ill when you’ve committed to an event, give yourself permission to take care of yourself. To stay well, taking care of your personal needs is a top priority. Be willing to let the "wants" go undone if necessary.

4. Save time and energy by doing your greeting cards and shopping online
Hundreds of stores offer online catalogs as well as online greeting cards. Ordering online allows you to avoid fighting the mob at the malls as well as the long lines at the post office.

5. Tackle big projects in pieces
Does the thought of sending out those 100 greeting cards depress you? How about all that holiday baking? If you are tackling a big holiday project, break it into parts. Do your shopping and cooking as early as possible. For those personal holiday cards, spend 30 minutes a day over one week. Plan on the project taking 25 percent more time than you anticipated. Thus, you’re not creating additional stress by having to cram too much in too short of a period of time.

6. Let go of expectations
Have you ever hoped that a package contained exactly the right gift and it turned out to be something for which you had absolutely no use? My husband coined the phrase "slain by an expectation" to describe this phenomenon. When we create expectations of what "should" happen or exactly how things should be, we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure. Instead of having high expectations, shift to being grateful to whatever comes to you this holiday season. Sometimes life’s most difficult times and lessons turn out to be our greatest gifts and teachers.

7. Don’t be attached to the outcome
Stress often occurs when we have attachment to how people will respond to our cards, gifts, or even our presence. Focus on the present moment and enjoy the gifts it contains. Your holiday experience will be much more positive and will seem less like an obligation.

8. Keep your intake of alcohol and sweets at a minimum
A major way many people burn both time and energy during the holidays is drinking too much and eating too many sweets. It’s even worse when you have to go on a diet in January to get back into shape. Furthermore, both alcohol and sugar can cause your blood sugar to crash. If you’re going to "graze" at a party, focus on high-protein items along with fresh fruits and vegetables. Have "designer water" or fresh juice (or cocktail mix) without the alcohol. If you are still using the "it’s the holidays" excuse, it’s time to retire it!

9. Alone for the holidays?
Create your own holiday tradition by inviting others who are alone or new in town to your home for a holiday dinner. If you don’t have anyone to invite, visit a retirement home or an orphanage. There are many people who would love to have someone remember them at the holiday season. Alternatively, volunteer to serve dinner to the homeless or to work at a local church or synagogue that provides services for those in need. The old adage of "it is better to give than to receive" is very true. What we give always comes back with interest.

10. Give to yourself
At this hectic time of year, schedule time for you. Take a long, luxurious hot bath; enjoy a holiday movie; get a massage; or do whatever makes you feel good and healthy. Give yourself the gifts of laughter and song; both are great ways to chase away stress as well as the holiday blues. Also, when you’re happy, you seldom get sick. Recent research has shown laughter strengthens the immune system. So, put a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and enjoy the holiday season!

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of "Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters" and "Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?" Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at LuxuryClues.com.


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