7 Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

Make the most of the most wonderful time of the year.

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As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year – and the busiest! The kids are excited about the holidays, moms and dads are planning and preparing their most special dishes for visiting relatives and holiday parties and we're all running around trying to get the shopping done and the house decorated.

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If ever schedules were going to go awry, this is the time. Here are some tips on how to keep things under control:

1. Have a battle plan.

If you are shopping for holiday gifts, start early in the month, look for sales and stick to your budget. Wrap a few gifts each night, so you don't have to stay up late wrapping everything the night before the holiday.

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2. Prepare food ahead of time.

For holiday cooking, write out the menu and list every ingredient so you don't forget anything while food shopping. Bake holiday treats or other dishes ahead of time, and freeze them when possible. Dig out the serving dishes you may use only during this season, and make sure you have serving utensils for every dish.

3. Don't skip breakfast.

Start your day with a good power breakfast to keep your energy high by eating protein and carbs for breakfast. My personal fave is rolled oats with 1 percent milk and topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

[Read: Mitzi's Food and Fitness Diary.]

4. Share the load.

Let the children help with cleaning and join in the fun of decorating. Make a chart of every chore that needs doing, and let each child pick one or two. Stick stars on the chart when the job is done, and be generous with praise and encouragement. Play holiday music to get everyone in the mood!

5. Work out.

Working out is known to produce endorphins, which make us feel happy and relaxed. Jumping rope, doing pushups and/or Tabata (a type of interval training) for at least 10 minutes a day will not only keep you feeling less stressed but also keep you from packing on the winter weight.

Don't have membership to a gym, or feel like you don't have enough time to work out? There are plenty of at-home exercises that you can do throughout the day wherever you are.

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6. Give Yourself 10 to15 Minutes of Me Time Each Day.

Even if you're on the run all day and want nothing more than to crash as soon as you get home, resist that urge. Make sure that you take 10 to15 minutes to sit down and relax. Read a book or a magazine to help take your mind off the day. Even better, taking a relaxing bath or practicing meditation are great ways to unwind after a rough day. Allowing time for yourself is important for keeping you from feeling overwhelmed.

7. Get enough sleep.

It's important, in all the excitement of the season, for everyone to have a good night's rest. Try to stick to bedtime routines – even if you hear the sound of reindeer on the roof!

If you have ideas for staying stress-free through the holidays, please send them along! I hope you and your family enjoy the warmth and good cheer of the season. Happy holidays, everyone!

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Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD, is a nationally recognized nutrition and fitness expert who inspires people to lose weight and get fit. Mitzi is team nutritionist for the Kansas City Royals and served as team nutritionist for the Kansas City Chiefs for several years. She coauthored, with NFL Future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez, The All-Pro Diet, which helps people eat clean and get lean. Her latest book, The Pinterest Diet: How to Pin Your Way Thin, was released this month. Follow Mitzi on Pinterest at NutritionExpert.