5 unique ways to avoid holiday stress

It's that time of year again! Overwhelming holiday stress! And the good news is you are not alone. The American Psychological Association reports that almost half of all women experience an increased amount of stress over the holidays. I can tell you as someone from a blended family with in-laws and my kids in the mix, I'm typically so excited for the season to end, I'm passed out on the couch by 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

So, what are we to do? The suggestions that we take a little time for ourselves and sneak a bubble bath in here and there are great, but let's be real, it's never going to happen. If we could find the time to read in a quiet room or take a bath without a child banging on the door and screaming that they will surely die of hunger if you do not get out of the tub and immediately produce food, stress wouldn't even be an issue. I've come up with a real way to take the edge off over the holidays for real women who know that it's all on them to make the season bright.

Here are five, fun ways to get rid of some holiday stress.

Snag all of the freebies for yourself for a change

You went to all of this trouble to brave the mall and make it in time for the door buster prize, so instead of giving it all to your 14-year-old niece this year, keep it for yourself! Let it be your incentive for dealing with the cold, crowds, and stress. Sometimes, a full-size free lip gloss does make everything better.

Put your out of town guests on 'kid duty'

It might sound a bit rude, because after all, these people are your guests! But let's get real here, nine times out of ten, these people are family and not the Queen of England, so it really isn't necessary to treat them like royalty. After all, you did make the effort to pull out the couch and vacuum behind it for them, and we all know that never happens. If you do have family coming in, see if they'd be open to maybe having a movie night at home with the kids, or taking them out sledding for a few hours so you can do something in quiet solitude... like eat. Just a couple hours of quiet and solitude can do wonders for stress.

Hit something

Yep, I said it. Hit something. You've had your mother in law criticizing the water spots on your glasses, the kids are on sugar cookie jet fuel, and you're convinced that the dog's main purpose in life is to have its tail knock over wine glasses. Stuffing aggression never helps, so now is the best time to take a kickboxing class, take a few swings at a batting cage or golf dome, or simply throw snowballs at the garage door. Letting off some steam helps everyone this time of year. Otherwise, you're just going to hit the pie and eggnog a bit to hard and add self-loathing to the mix.

Learn to love the art of handing out cash

After about the age of 10, kids are a bit over the season and really just want the cash to get what they really want. I know it kind of takes the magic out of the whole surprise factor, and cash seems a bit tacky to some, but it's all about picking your battles and cutting your losses. There is nothing wrong with heading to the store for those few surprise items for the older kids to unwrap, then giving them some gift cards or money to go bananas with after Christmas. It saves you the stress of shopping and wrapping, and they're happy. Win, win, I say! This is also great for nieces, nephews, and cousins. Give a Visa gift card instead of an ugly scarf and hat set, and you've just saved yourself an hour of shopping and gift wrap. You also just became everyone's favorite aunt.

'Tis the season to let the wine flow

There is something magical about wine. Now, I'm not saying make this a bottle a night habit, because then you're probably dealing with a little more than just holiday stress; however, there is nothing wrong with having a glass at the end of the day to take the edge off and make you relax a little. Your blood pressure has been up, right? So, think of all the heart healthy effects a glass of red wine has.

While these tips can help, the most important thing about keeping stress in check during the holidays is all about perspective. The real joy of the season is getting to spend time with loved ones, even your mother in law, and the fun things you do as a family once a year. Tasks and to-do lists are just that. Let this holiday season be a holiday in the true sense of the word.

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