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Holidays ahead! Get through them without stress with these four steps.

Mother and daughter baking holiday cookies

Remember how exciting the holidays were when you were a kid? It always felt like there was a little bit of magic in the air as you made cookies, decorated the house and hid presents in the closet.

But do the holidays still feel that way? For too many of us, the answer is “no.” We get overwhelmed by expectations, our budget is stretched to the absolute limit and it always feels like there’s one more present to buy and one more thing to do.

We can’t magically make holiday stress disappear, but we do have a couple of ideas to help you recapture what this hap-happiest season of all is supposed to be about. Please note that none of these revolve around setting and following a budget: Yes, that is incredibly important and we’ve certainly said it many times, but we’re going to guess you already know that tip!

#1. Take a deep breath. When you start to feel overwhelmed and out of control, stop whatever you’re doing, close your eyes, relax your whole body and then slowly breathe in and breathe out. Repeat as necessary and practice it with your kids too. Don’t think it will help? Try it and see!

#2. Don’t do that thing you always do (unless you really want to). There’s a difference between traditions you do because you really like and look forward to them and traditions you do because you think someone else expects you to do them. You could even “Marie Kondo” (the tidying up lady) your holidays: If an activity doesn’t bring you joy, don’t do it! And if someone else misses the tradition, kindly invite them to take it on.

#3. Do something you did when you were a kid. Is there something from your childhood that you’ve stopped doing – maybe because it felt too time consuming or you were “too old” or maybe because you just forgot about it? Did you always make a paper chain to count off the days, or paper snowflakes for the windows or did Grandma always get you an Advent calendar with windows to open each day? Whatever it was, maybe it’s something you’d enjoy again.

#4. Take a new look at gift giving. It’s easy to get swept up in the frenzy of this season’s hot toy or electronic, or to give Mom yet another scarf because you know she really doesn’t need anything and it’s an easy fallback. But why not consider one of these instead: the gift of an experience (which, bonus, is often a gift of your time too), a potluck and recipe swap, an abundance swap (everyone brings something in good shape that others might like, and they could do it for themselves or a charity) or an ornament exchange. None of these have to cost a lot of money and give you the chance to spend time with people you love.

Feeling merrier already? Yeah, us too!

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