8 ways to stress-proof your holidays

The holidays can fritz out even the most levelheaded among us. Here are eight coping strategies that can help cut the stress, and up your enjoyment, this holiday season

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holiday stress

1. Shop online

Why go nuts fighting it out at the mall?! Shop online to gift-gather on your own schedule (while catching up on Modern Family episodes, say).

Here are some shops that offer free Canadian shipping this holiday season, or year-round:

Roots: $100 minimum purchase
Old Navy: $50 minimum purchase
Gap: $50 minimum purchase
Banana Republic: $50 minimum purchase

You can combine Old Navy, Banana Republic and Gap (BabyGap and GapKids) purchases to hit that $50 minimum order.

Sephora: $120 minimum purchase

Books and Toys:
Indigo: $25 minimum purchase
Grand River Toys: $100 minimum purchase
MasterMind Toys: $75 minimum purchase. Free gift-wrapping and gift tags, too.

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support from family

2. Manage your relatives

There are three ways to minimize the challenges posed by chronic one-upmanship, envy or other toxic extended-family interactions:

• Limit your time at stressful family events. Show up early, with an appropriate hostess gift, then leave an hour after dessert. If you had to travel, stay at a hotel;

• Avoid your extended clan, and celebrate with those whom you truly adore;

• Or, schedule in volunteer work at a shelter or food bank. Doing good-and feeling good!-will make it easier to ignore any family negativity.

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potluck dinner

3. Host a potluck feast

Everyone loves a holiday feast, but pulling it off can be a daunting prospect. Our humble suggestion? Go potluck. The host makes the main roast, but guests are enlisted for side dishes and dessert.

Establish a theme, so people can plan complementary dishes, for example, “Traditional Canadian Christmas” or “Asian-fusion seafood celebration.” Then send a group email listing the dishes required. Stick to generic terms, like “Side Veg #1,” “Side Veg #2,” ” Soup,” “Dessert #1,” etc, so guests can “Reply All” indicating what they’re bringing.

With potlucks, hosts forfeit the right to micromanage. So yes, it’s fair to request a vegetarian dish, but rude to assign “roasted cumin-spiced carrots cut into strips, not circles”!

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4. Try some relaxation techniques

Hectic days and nights call for fast coping strategies. Familiarize yourself with relaxation techniques that work for you. Consider:

Deep breathing.

Saying a little prayer (for someone else).

Yoga meditation.

• Locking yourself into a private room, blasting one of your iPod workout playlists, and dancing like no one’s watching. (Because no one is!)

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family sledding

5. Get outside and exercise

Getting physical activity en famille is a great way to establish healthy habits in your kids, and to spend shared time celebrating Canada’s world-famous winter wonderland. Bonus: the following winter activities are free or inexpensive:

• Going to a tree farm to cut down your own tree
• Ice-skating
• Cross-country skiing
• Trail walking
• Snow-shoeing 
• Sledding down the local hill
• Making snowmen, forts and angels

If you’re not a fan of the cold, but are too time-crunched to make it to the gym, try an at-home workout. Workout DVDs are every new-mom’s BFF, but they’re ideal for anyone with a serious time deficit-even if it’s just seasonal.

Your body will thank you with the feel-good endorphins that follow any solid workout.

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clean kitchen

6. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

Busy moms need to enlist household assistance. Without a lot of additional supervision, appropriately aged schoolchildren can tackle basic household tasks. (Most preschooler “assistance,” however, requires supervision: maybe grandma or grandpa can help with that.)

Active school age kids can:

• Shovel the walk (manually, not with a snow-blower)
• Walk the dog
• Take out the trash

Homebodies can:

• Set or clear the table
• Sweep and mop floors
• Take guests’ coats and hang them

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write a bucket list

7. Stay organized

Take a moment each night-before and morning-of, to review and update the day’s to-do list. It’s not a wish list, so skip “Finish all holiday shopping, complete year-end reports at work, establish Middle East peace process,” and stick to realistic, deadline-driven deliverables for the day.

Use a family whiteboard or calendar to stay on top of family activities and commitments over the holiday season.

Make a point of eating breakfast as a family (a healthy habit year-round anyway), to establish any shared tasks and transportation for the day.

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gift for teacher

8. Stay on budget

Given the global economic outlook, no one’s expecting grandiose holiday displays.

Gifts-wise, stick within your budget. A gaming gadget or deluxe smart phone isn’t a “must-have.” Parents worry kids don’t understand that, but they will if you explain.

For work and hostess gifts, save by making a big batch of peppermint-chocolate bark, granola, or bake-it-yourself cookie mix. Quality ingredients and pretty labels combine for an inexpensive gourmet treat.

8 ways to avoid holiday weight gain
3 ways to relieve stress
5 steps to healthier family meals

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