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De-stress Your Holidays With Our ‘Less Is More’ Plan

For boomers, the approach of the holidays can feel like one more slab of bread has just been layered atop the sandwich generation, turning jingle bells into jangled nerves.


As if focusing on kids, grandkids and aging parents weren’t enough, the holidays cram our calendars with seasonal work parties, commitments to catch up with old friends and a zillion other opportunities for compulsory gaiety (rhymes with “anxiety”).

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So how can you ensure that your own needs — mainly getting adequate sleep, exercise and downtime — don’t get kicked to the slushy curb? I’ve identified five ways you can enjoy the holidays a lot more by doing a whole lot less.

1. Do Less. Are you a victim of your own competence? The more capable you are, the more other people ask you to lend a hand (or expect you to volunteer one). But if the mere thought of baking cookies from scratch and writing greeting cards by hand ratchets up your stress, why do it?

So down with perfectionism, sez I! As Arianna Huffington writes in her best-selling Thrive, “I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.” This year, start a new holiday tradition: Focus on what sparks joy in your life, not exclusively on what you think will please others.

2. Buy Less. One of the biggest stressors during the holidays is the thought of all those credit-card bills hitting your mailbox just as you’re dragging your tree to the curb. If you have a large family circle for whom you normally buy gifts, take the “Secret Santa” route: In my family we agree on a price limit, then put everyone’s name in a bowl (kids under 10 and the very elderly are exempt), shut our eyes and pick a single name to buy a present for. It’s fun — and far less expensive for everyone.

Indeed, suggests time-management expert Julie Morgenstern, the holidays are a great time to give your old stuff the heave-ho-ho-ho. At worst, you’ll make room for what’s new; at best your donations will help out charities and people in need. (Click here for a recent conversation Julie and I had about “stuff-shedding.”)

3. Cook Less. If you’re the one who usually hosts a certain holiday dinner, consider asking everyone to bring a side dish, a dessert or something to drink. You can always show off your culinary skills with the main course.

4. Eat Less. It’s natural to reach for a bite of comfort food when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. And then another, and another, until eventually you start to feel even more stressed because you’re packing on the pounds. So be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking around the winter solstice — even if you must keep a food diary to do so.

Faced with a choice between Christmas cookies or a veggie platter, you know what to do! For ideas on what to eat for maximum health and well-being the entire year round, check out this eating plan.

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5. Travel Less. Leaving home to visit family and friends makes the holidays one of the busiest  travel times of the year. Instead of getting caught up in the frenzy, grant yourself a “staycation.” Staying put can give you the gift you wanted most this year: uninterrupted time to relax, refresh and re-emerge stronger and less stressed — the ideal way to ring in the New Year!

If you absolutely cannot avoid getting caught up in the holiday hurly-burly, try these tips to keep your stress levels to a minimum:

Until next time, remember: We can’t control getting older, but we can control how we do it!

 photos: John 330/istockphoto; FoxNews

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