5 ways moms can avoid holiday stress

As a mom, you have probably felt that you would surely collapse under the pressure to make the holidays extra special for your kids. From crafting handmade keepsake ornaments to baking homemade cookies, visiting everyone from Santa to your second cousins, taking holiday portraits to trimming the tree, everything has to be perfect. Oh, and don't forget the gifts. And in all of the hubbub of holiday preparation, do you find a chance to take care of yourself? Or do you find yourself frazzled and stressed come Christmas morning, just hoping the New Year will come quickly?

Let me tell you a secret. The best parts of the holidays are the times spent just relaxing and hanging out together as a family. According to the Mayo Clinic, the stress you suffer trying to create the perfect Christmas for your kids can lead to depression and can adversely affect your health. So give your whole family the gift of a happy, stress-free holiday this year. Here are a few things my family has done to accomplish just that.

Don't overdo it

With the abundance of holiday crafts and activities suggested by magazines and websites like Pinterest, you can really start to feel like a slacker if you aren't doing lots of things to make the season memorable. I pick just a couple of crafts each year, and if they turn out to be boring or too complicated for the kids to enjoy, we chuck them and make hot chocolate instead.

Relax and read together

If you want to do something really special and memorable, pick a book with a holiday theme and read it aloud to your kids. Just read a little each night before bed, and leave them wanting more. This relaxing activity brings your family together and has numerous benefits for kids of every age, including increased vocabulary and language skills. Consider the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" or "Letters from Father Christmas" by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Scale back the traveling

My husband and I used to travel a lot at Christmas, visiting one group of family members after another, and seldom sleeping in our own bed on Christmas Eve. Having kids changed all that. Now we stay home, build our own traditions, and make any holiday visits on a schedule that meets our family's needs. This routine is so much less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.

Scale back gifts, too

Giving gifts to loved ones can bring you a lot of joy, but filling a long list of obligatory gifts can drain both your wallet and your spirits. If gift exchanges have become more of a chore than a treat, have a frank discussion with your family or friends and let them know you love them, but you are backing out. Make sure and have this talk well in advance of the holiday to avoid the awkward reply, "But I already bought your gift."

Remember, life goes on after Christmas

The weeks after the holidays are over can be lonely. I've noticed the elderly people I know seem especially let down after everyone goes back to their normal lives after Christmas. Schedule a post-holiday visit with friends or family in early January and extend the fun of the holidays for everyone without piling more stress on yourself.

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