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The holidays can be a great time of year to visit with family, share meals and exchange gifts, but it can also be a very stressful time of year. Many people find themselves stressed out and depressed due to all the demands and self-expectations. Below are some helpful tips for simplifying and making your holidays brighter. 

Establish a budget and stick to it. Limit the number of gifts — forget unnecessary gift exchanges and draw names with your extended family to limit it to one person each. When you don’t know what a person would like, consider giving a gift card.

Limit the gifts you give your children. Do not feel the need to buy them everything. This saves time and money.

If you must buy a present for an entire family, consider giving a family gift, such as movie tickets or a family game night with a game and a bucket full of popcorn. 

Instead of shopping at the mall and large retail chains, support local small businesses or buy online. Wrap gifts as you get them.

Look for ways to limit your to-do list. If you have an event to attend, buy a pie or something to eat from the store. It tastes just as good and saves you the stress of having to bake.

When inviting guests over, instead of providing a giant feast, serve finger foods or have a potluck. Plan all your meals weeks in advance. This way you know exactly what you will be making, and you can shop the sales ahead of time. Also, forget the regular dishes! Use paper plates and plastic utensils and glasses. 

Instead of sending cards, either call or send e-cards. It saves all the expense of postage and the dreaded trip to the post office.

Don’t put up as many decorations as you usually do. Keep it simple. Keep the focus on the Christmas tree and the front door.

Ask for help from your family members. You do not have to do everything on your own. Recruit your children and spouse to help in holiday preparations. Keep the cleaning to the public areas of the house and let the private areas remain private. 

Spend time with your family. Go out to a movie together, go ice skating or bowling. Nothing creates more memories than the time you spend together. Build a gingerbread house with your kids out of the gingerbread kits at the store. You can always buy extra candies to add your own flourish. 

Enjoy a family meal at the table at least once a week. This will give you time to catch up with your family and enjoy the holidays. Evaluate your traditions and weed out the ones that are not necessary anymore.

Get plenty of sleep. It is important that you do not deprive yourself of sleep so that you can remain healthy and in good spirits. And be sure to continue your exercise routine. As your schedule fills up with holiday parties, make sure to include your exercise time.

Take a bubble bath and have a glass of wine. Use aromatherapy. Take time to relax! If you need to, include it in your schedule. Cut back on the caffeine. Caffeine causes stress. Do not drink excessive alcohol, as it dehydrates you and increases the chances of you eating excess food. Drink lots of water or alcohol-free beverages.

Take back your holiday fun and enjoyment. De-stress and simplify to create a wonderful, memorable holiday season! You don’t have to have the “perfect” holidays that you see on television. You should enjoy the holidays that are perfect for your family without causing a lot of unnecessary stress. Happy holidays!

Adrian Kohrt is a family nutrition coordinator for Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at amkohrt@alaska.edu or 907-474-7930.