By Rita Schiano (Guest blogger)

Most folk say they are fairly stressed much of the time. Add the holiday season into the mix and stress levels tend to soar. So here are some tips and techniques to make the season merrier rather than hairier.

Too much to do; too little time: Begin today to plan for the holidays. Make and take time today to sit down and write a list of what needs to be done; who’s on the gift lift; holiday travel plans, and the like. Prioritize the list starting with MUST DO (has time constraints) to NEED TO DO (has wiggle room for completion) then follow your action plan.

Pay attention to your body’s response to stress. To be in control of our lives we must be in control of our bodies, that is, we must be aware of what our body is telling us. When we are under stress, our body becomes unregulated. Our heart beats rapidly; we begin to sweat, our respiration increases, our digestion decreases. So when you experience that physical stress response, slow down (yes, you can slow down!) Simply taking a few minutes to focus on 10 deep breaths can help the body regain some balance.

Don’t sweat the small stuff: Sometimes things just don't go our way. We anticipate certain outcomes, and then life throws us a high-speed curve ball. It's okay to wallow in a little self-pity . . . temporarily. This allows the negative thoughts and emotions to flush out of our system.

Don’t overspend: Set a budget and stick to it.

Bite your tongue: The frustration or anger that can well inside us from situations that are not only out of our control, but have nothing to do with us, chips away at our peace of mind and releases stress hormones which, left unattended, can lead to health-related problems. The capacity to manage strong feeling, emotions, and impulses involves being able to take action without being impulsive and put emotions to the side when clear thinking and action are required.

Practice Gratitude. Learning to practice gratitude is one of life's most valuable lessons. Psychological research finds that people's happiness levels are remarkably stable over the long-term. A possible explanation comes from studies in the psychology of gratitude. Yes, you read that correctly—being grateful just may be the secret to happiness and better health.

Rita Schiano is a speaker, featured presenter, and the author of several books and articles. She is an adjunct professor at Bay Path College and the creator of the Live A Flourishing Life™ stress management and resilience-building programs.

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