To me, holidays are like weddings. There is a tremendous amount of build-up, expense, and planning, and in a few hours, it is over. Oh yeah, and all the insane relatives come out of the woodwork. FUN. (Note: I don’t personally have any insane relatives, but I’ve heard some people do.)

It might be virtually impossible to imagine a completely stress-free holiday season, but why not try? Here are five simple things that help me deal with all the stresses that come along this time of year.

1) SERIOUS self-care. I am as bad as they get when it comes to taking care of myself, EXCEPT this time of year, when I really make an effort. Right after Thanksgiving, I make it a point to get more sleep, get a massage, exercise regularly, and pamper myself more than ever. I know that if I feel well taken care of, I can deal with everyone else. It also helps curb the “I deserve a cookie” feeling at the end of the day.

2) Eat less crap. Most people use the holidays as an excuse to eat more crap, but trust me, eating less will help you beat stress. It has nothing to do with fitting into your fancy pants for that party either. Eating better will help you feel more energetic, less depressed and support your immune system. Want to know what’s worse than a stressful holiday? A stressful holiday with the flu. That said, I indulge at the holiday meal, and I enjoy the party, I just remind myself that most of the foods are also available the other 11 months of the year, so I don’t have to eat them all in one.

3) Sleep. Did I mention sleep before? It deserves a category of its own. Seriously. Take it from this sleep-deprived mama. Catch some zzzzz’s however necessary. Imagine how much nicer you’d be if you weren’t so freakin’ tired. Think of it as a selfless act to help those around you, and go to bed already! The other stuff can wait.

4) Have Sex. There, I said it. Sex is a great stress reliever, and let’s face it, when we’re overwhelmed, busy, hectic, etc. we have less, when we should be having more. Don’t believe me? Here’s the scientific proof. Relieves stress, boosts immunity and burns calories? ‘Tis the season.

5) Shop Less. No, I haven’t hired a team of elves to do my shopping, I just shop less. I really, really (I mean REALLY) try to remind my family that the season is about spending time together, not giving people more stuff. A few years ago, we started a secret Santa gift exchange with my husband’s family, and it has turned into such a nice tradition. All of the kids get something, but we don’t have to rent a U-haul to bring it home, we don’t have to pay the credit card bill for six moths after, and we all enjoy our yearly get-together. I know, you know, it isn’t about the stuff, but if you make it about the stuff, it’s about the stuff. Ya know? Speaking of stuff, this is a link to Wired magazine’s list of best toys for kids, I plan to send it to everyone who asks what my kids “need”.

AND if you’d like more de-stressing ideas, check out these suggestions for being more mindful, from my wonderful colleague Tara, at Working Mother Coaching.

Here’s to a wonderfully, stress-free Holiday!

-Amara