Many of us think of the holidays as a happy time: a time to grow closer to family and friends, enjoy good food, and relax. But for many of us, that ideal happy holiday season turns into stress, anxiety, and even depression.

We often get so wrapped up in decorating, cooking, shopping, and making all the relatives and friends happy that we forget to focus on what we need. Here are some great ways to take a break and relieve some of that stress and boost your mood.

* Take a nap. Often holiday lists can get so long that we skip out on sleep in order to get to the mall early or stay up late making baked goods. But loss of sleep can take a major toll on our bodies and our minds, leaving us feeling sluggish, sick, and depressed. By taking a nap, or better yet, getting a full night’s sleep every night, you’ll feel better and probably get more done in the time you’re awake.

* Get some exercise. While many of us see exercise as a chore, once it gets into your regular routine, it’s a great way to reduce stress and improve your mood. It doesn’t have to be difficult; it can be as easy as taking a walk or playing an active game outside with the kids. Just be sure it’s something that gets your heart rate up.

* Get a massage. Massage not only relaxes you and makes you feel less stressed, it also helps take away the physical muscle aches that can slow you down. Many people don’t get massages because they think they are too expensive, but you can often get lower rates by going to a massage school. If that’s still too much, you can always get your significant other to give you a backrub.

* Try relaxation techniques. While things like yoga and meditation have become more popular, many people still haven’t tried them because they seem silly. Before you write them off, why not get a video, read a book, or take a class about some of these techniques and give them a try. It will only take a few hours, but can leave you feeling a whole lot happier and relaxed.

So, you may be thinking that all this sounds great if only you had the time to fit it in. The key is to make a list, prioritize, and cut anything that isn’t really important to you.

While making fifty dozen cookies for the office may be something you do every year, it probably isn’t really more important than keeping yourself happy and healthy. Figure out what you’re willing to cut and start chopping. In addition, don’t be afraid to say no when someone asks you to do something you just don’t have time for.

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