As the holiday season approaches and the year comes to an end, we are confronted with a growing list of festive tasks and duties: entertaining, cooking, cleaning, shopping, traveling, and visiting to name a few. While all of these things are enjoyable, they can often turn into holiday stress and anxiety. With family in town and ever-hectic schedules, routine and order seem to fall by the wayside. In an attempt to mediate some of this chaos, I would like to share some helpful tips for surviving holiday stress and thriving during the holidays.

How to Cope with Holiday Stress

Be Realistic

The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. Families and individuals change and grow. Choose a few important traditions to hold onto, while making room in your heart for new ones to grow. With my brother getting married two years ago, we have adopted many “new” Christmas traditions which include the in laws as well as our traditional white elephant exchange. Christmas sometimes means compromise.

Acknowledge

The holidays can be hard, especially because the world does not pause or stop spinning for our celebrations. If you have lost a loved one or are enduring any emotional transition, you can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season. It does not make you the Grinch if you are not completely holly jolly. Take this time to practice vulnerability and lean on your support network. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

Plan Ahead

This step is crucial! Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Set your menus ahead of time and make complete shopping lists. Be sure to recruit and ask for help ... especially with the clean-up. This will help prevent last-minute scrambling and undue anxiety. ​However, it may help to view inevitable missteps as opportunities to exercise your flexibility and resilience.

Don’t Abandon Healthy Habits

With the addition of so many parties and gatherings it is easy to lose track of the simple things like eating three meals, getting 8 hours of sleep and drinking plenty of water. During the holidays I find myself eating solely at big events and religiously gravitating toward the desserts. In order to assist with eating in moderation and putting a stop to the guilt of overindulgence, the Mayo Clinic suggests having ​a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drink and to incorporate regular physical activity into each day, regardless of duration.

Most Importantly ... Relax

Please, do what you need in order to relax. Even 15 minutes a day to collect your thoughts will help. Whether that means sitting in your parked car for 10 minutes in silence before leaving the mall, getting up before your family wakes to eat breakfast in peace, taking a long shower or mentally turning on “do not disturb” to listen to a podcast. You know you better than anyone else, so treat yourself with kindness and take care. Take control of the holidays. Focus on realistic​ planning, self awareness and a positive mind set to create peace and joy all season long.