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Beating Holiday Stress

The winter holidays can take a toll on your health if you're not careful. To experts in the relatively new field of medicine called psychoneuroimmunology, or P.N.I., it is no surprise that many people get sick or experience flare-ups of chronic illnesses while struggling to cope with the stress and demands of the holiday season. Here are a few tips to help you reduce the amount of holiday anxiety in your future.

PLAN AHEAD

Try to make a list well in advance of everything that has to be done. Create a timetable for doing it, and be sure to leave some extra time for unexpected delays or changes. Try to buy holiday gifts throughout the year, then label and hide them somewhere secure.

DON'T PROCRASTINATE

Do as much as you can as early as you can. Lingering chores are mindclogging and stressful. Getting them out of the way creates a sense of both relief and accomplishment.

DELEGATE

Don't try to do it all yourself—assign chores to everyone. Don't be shy about asking guests to contribute part of holiday meals.

GET REAL

Exaggerating what can be accomplished in the time available is a common source of holiday stress. Eliminate time-consuming chores that don't add to holiday enjoyment or that can be done some other time. Plan holiday meals within reason. No one wants a huge meal at the expense of people enjoying themselves. Shop from catalogs or online; the cost of shipping will be far less than the cost of getting it yourself.

GET OVER IT

For family and acquaintances that you must see but would really rather not, either ignore them or try not to take them seriously. Look for the humor instead of the aggravation in the situation.

PRIORITIZE

Often when we get very busy, caring for ourselves gets neglected. But mindless snacking, skipping meals, putting off exercise, sleeping too little and not allowing for some downtime can take a real toll. The effectiveness of your immune system and its ability to ward off illness depends on taking care of yourself.

EXCERCISE

It's one of the best ways to reduce stress. Try brisk walking for an hour, five or more times a week; your body and your mind will thank you. Yoga, lap swimming and water aerobics are especially effective for relaxing.

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