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Five tips for a happy and healthy holiday season

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When she's not on the sidelines at Gillette Stadium or lending her support to events in the community, [Cheerleader Brittany B.](/cheerleaders/Brittany B./d4520261-9d3c-454c-ac7e-efae953c57a3) works as a licensed clinical social worker specializing in behavioral health treatment. With the busy holiday season upon us, Patriots.com checked in with her to get some expert advice for combating stress and ensuring it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Now that we're in the midst of the holidays, it's important to acknowledge that, despite all its glitz and glory, the season often brings a dizzying array of demands, from baking and gift shopping to planning and hosting parties. With a few practical tips, though, you can minimize stress to allow for a little more holiday cheer.

1. Be realistic and learn to say no
Try not to drive yourself crazy finding the perfect gift, planning the perfect party or trying to do it all. As families change and grow, traditions often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Be clear about your limits and stop trying to please everyone. Friends, family and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every event or project.

2. Plan ahead and stick to a budget
Schedule specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. And don't rely on memory; instead, make a note or use a calendar. When it comes to hosting parties, plan your menu and then make a list of everything you need to avoid scrambling for ingredients at the last minute. And before you head out shopping, whether for party food or gifts, decide how much money you can afford to spend.

To save some cash on gift-giving this season, consider these alternatives:

  • Make a charitable donation in someone's name.
  • Create homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange, such as Secret Santa or Yankee Swap
    3. Don't abandon your health
    It's easy to let the holidays become an excuse to overindulge. But let's face it, this only adds to your stress and guilt. Instead, have healthy snacks before holiday parties to avoid going overboard on sweets or cocktails. Make sure you get enough sleep and don't forget to incorporate some physical activity into each day. A lap around the mall counts!

4. Take a break to breathe
Make time for yourself. Find something that reduces stress by easing your mind and slowing your breathing. A few simple ideas include:

  • Taking a short walk to soak in some sunshine and much-needed vitamin D
  • Listening to music. It's allowed to be something other than "Jingle Bells!"
  • Getting a massage or mani-pedi, because you deserve a little pampering too! 
  • Reading a book or magazine. 
    5. Recognize your feelings and work to set aside differences
    If someone close to you has recently passed away or you can't be with those you love during the holidays, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take a moment to cry or express your feelings. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't always live up to all of your expectations. And when possible, reserve grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion.
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