Tips for beating holiday stress

Ruth to the Rescue: Ditch the panic, restore the pleasure

Published On: Dec 20 2012 11:07:43 PM EST

With tree trimming, gift buying, food preparation and other holiday projects, there is a lot of stress to go around this time of year.

"I think people put a lot of pressure on themselves for everything to be perfect," said Donna Roussey, of Birmingham.

The Holiday Work-Up

Roussey has an eight year old daughter and works as a C.T. tech in the Karmanos Cancer Center. She knows quite a bit about stress. She's been hosting her entire family of nearly 50 people on Christmas for about three years.

"The first year was very overwhelming for me," said Roussey.

What tricks has she learned?

"I don't make all the food for 50 people. I make a couple appetizers, I make a couple of main dishes, and a couple desserts and everybody else fills in," she said.

Roussey says she tries to think of dinner foods and desserts she can make ahead of time. Her family makes a couple different kinds of cookies.

"We'll make the batter of several different cookies and cook them throughout the week, so that are the cookies are done within one week," she said.

But, she doesn't limit her holiday prep to food.

"As a gift comes, I wrap it, just to get it out of the way, so I'm not spending two or three days wrapping gifts," she said.

Dana Hilmer is a lifestyle expert and the founder and editor-in-chief of LifestyleMom.com. She reveals why stress levels are so much higher during the holidays. "I think women especially kind of put these expectations on themselves, that they need to make this wonderful event happen and make it memorable."

But, women are not alone in their many annual tasks or annual anxiety. Peter Pokryke of Ann Arbor says he season has left him stressed as well. "I'm skipping my job right now, so I can go shopping for the kids," he said.

Some Ground Rules

No matter who you are, the first step to lowering stress to to get the whole family on the same page, and ready to pitch in.

"What I like to suggest is that everybody kind of takes a deep breath and says, 'Okay, instead of buying into these expectations, think through what you want the holiday to be for you and your family," said Hilmer.

Peter Pokryke says, "It's a shared approach that we take to shopping for the kids and family and what not."

Julie Neiheisel of Rochester Hills says, "I make lots of lists and I try to spread the wealth to my kids for a little help from my husband and try to keep it as low-key as best I can and try to plan it out."

Remember these other stress-relieving tips:

1. Get enough sleep. Sleep-deprivation can be big for impacting peoples' moods.

2. Make sure you still exercise. Studies show the physical activity will boost your mood.

3. Treat yourself to one thing a day, whether it's having a cup of tea, taking an extra long, an extra long shower or just a sitting down.

4. Learn from your mistakes. If something really frustrated you last year, avoid it this year.

5. Plan out your menu.

6. Avoid the chaos of stores. If you can, buy online or have a plan of what you're going for.

"The people that are shopping on Christmas Eve, that makes my heart hurt. I get chest pains thinking about that," Roussey said. "People's lists are long and if you don't get to all of it, it's okay! Christmas will still happen. It's still going to be there- people will still have a good time."