Merry Makers
6 holiday stress busters we can all live with.

Merry Makers
6 holiday stress busters we can all live with.

There are those among us who sail merrily through Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve. They tend to be either under the age of 6 or deep into the eggnog. For the rest of us, ’tis the season of mall madness, credit card meltdown, expanding waistlines and family squabbles. The message is: Be joyful. But that’s hard to do when your house is filled with unexpected guests, the toilet backs up and your 13-year-old decides to experiment with vodka.

In your efforts to stay sane during the holidays, do yourself a favor and give your body a break. “Get plenty of sleep,” says Marc Schulz, director of the graduate program in Clinical Developmental Psychology at Bryn Mawr College. “People try to do too much. They travel long
distances, stay up late and don’t slow down. None of us are at our best when we’re exhausted.”

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Schulz advises finding time to be alone when staying with friends or relatives. Go for a walk by yourself. It will lower stress—not just for you but for your host. “There are always going to be tensions within families, and that’s OK,” says Schulz. “But remember, as kids get older, they need time to be on their own, too—especially adolescents.”

In mixed marriages, the holidays can be a battle between the Christmas tree and the Hanukkah bush. “Most of what we do in the home isn’t proscribed by religion,” Schulz says. “Blending traditions and starting new ones can be an affirmative and creative process.”

Whether planning a merry little Christ-mas or cutting a hole in the ceiling to make way for a giant spruce, the best way to avoid stress is to plan ahead. Ready?


1. Reduce Shopper’s Stress
Dread the mall? Do all your holiday buying online from your home or office. Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nord-strom and just about every other retailer are a click away. Or if you’re looking for something artsy and international, visit, with links to museum gift shops around the world—everything from the Louvre to MoMA.

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Shopping online offers the convenience of gift-wrapping, enclosed cards and delivery. Many websites will even match the person on your list to an appropriate gift within the price range you specify. They also have wish lists that allow your friends and
relatives to tell you what they really want.


2. Manage Your Expenses
Santa’s making a list and checking it twice—you should do the same. Make a list of people, assign a dollar amount to each one’s gift and do not go over that amount—or you might be paying for Christmas gifts come next Labor Day.

If holiday entertaining takes a big bite out of your bank account, forego the foie gras this year and call DiFabio’s 9th Street Catering ( in Media. “Most people don’t know what they’re doing New Year’s Eve until the last minute,” says owner Frank DiFabio. “We take orders up to 72 hours in advance. Our most popular items are our pistachio chicken tenders and signature stuffed
turkey sandwich.”


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3. Take Time for Yourself
Plan a day, between the start of the holidays and New Year’s, just for yourself. Sneak off to a spa for a day or afternoon of indulgence. Cirillo Cosmetic Dermatology Spa ( in Rosemont offers a Restoration Package that includes a chemical peel, facial and microdermabrasion for a fraction of the cost of purchasing these services separately. “Eyelash extensions are great for the holidays,” says Honey Jordan, client services director at Cirillo.

If your spouse is clueless when it comes to gifts, you might want to drop a hint about spa gift certificates.

Another way to schedule quality time is to visit a fitness center before the first of the year. Make a date at Vertex Fitness (, a personal training studio in Bryn Mawr, for a complimentary workout session. Besides firming your abs, they’ll provide nutritional counseling. Or spend a morning at ACAC Fitness & Wellness Center ( in West Chester. They offer a free trial Pilates session and more than 240 classes a week, including yoga, aquatics, step aerobics and cycling. What better way to work off the 10 pounds you gained since Thanksgiving?


4. Just Say Goodbye
There’s no ordinance that says you must entertain lavishly, exchange expensive gifts or even be jolly, for that matter. If you find yourself shutting off the lights when carolers stroll down your block, you may want to consider the ultimate holiday stress buster: a last-minute vacation. Forget air travel and endless security lines—think of an escape that’s closer to home. Have yourself a Victorian Christmas in Cape May (, where you can stay in a romantic B&B, dine in gourmet restaurants and immerse yourself in the town’s Currier and Ives charm.

If your idea of Christmas is skiing, ice skating and sleigh rides, try the Lodge at Woodloch ( in the Pocono Mountains. Woodloch is a $37 million luxury spa for boys and girls who’ve been very, very good. Rooms start at $450/night, off-season. Or hop on the train and spend the holidays in New York City. offers two-night packages Dec. 16-29.


5. Thwart Anticipation Anxiety
They say the best remedy for disappointment is to lower your expectations. That works fine most of the year. But it doesn’t do the trick when you’re expecting a diamond ring under the tree and you find a pair of fluffy slippers. One way to reduce the anxiety of exchanging gifts is to tell people what you really want.

Tell the relative who always sends you an ugly clock that you’d prefer a gift certificate so you can pick out something you really need. If your spouse sees the holidays as little more than an opportunity to upgrade household appliances and you prefer something more personal, clip ads of the items you desire and say, “Any one will do. Surprise me.”


6. Alone for the Holidays
If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, the end of an intimate relationship, a job loss or serious illness, you might not be in the mood for champagne and confetti. Rather than toasting in the New Year alone with your cat, why not invite a friend to an early dinner at a good restaurant? Or prepare a gourmet meal for two at home and rent a movie? If you do spend the night alone, forget the microwave. Broil yourself a filet mignon and pop the cork on a bottle of Moët.


Holiday Eating Tips


The average American gains 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But who wants to be average? Here are some healthy suggestions to tip the scales in your favor.


Don’t skip meals before attending a holiday party—but do eat light. Try to have a small, sensible meal about an hour before the party starts so you’ll arrive satiated, not starving.


Watch the alcohol. It lowers your blood sugar, causing you to crave sweets and increase your intake of carbs. Cut your calories in half by alternating alcoholic drinks with water or seltzer. An 8-ounce gin-and-tonic is 192 calories. A white wine spritzer is only 49.


Fill your plate with small servings of protein (beef, turkey, ham, fish), veggies, salad greens, fresh fruit, whole-wheat rolls and wild rice. Stay away from nuts, cheese, cream sauces, creamy salad dressings, gravy, butter, whipped cream and candy. Go easy on the pasta, mashed potatoes and desserts. Pumpkin pie is OK as long as you watch your portion size. A 1/8-inch slice of pumpkin pie is 204 calories; the same slice of pecan pie is 503. (A good rule of thumb: Never eat anything larger than your face.)


After you fill your plate, walk away from the buffet table and don’t go back for 20 minutes. That’s how long it takes for your brain to get the message that you are full.


Anti-Stress Cheat Sheet1. Get plenty of sleep.
2. Take time out to be alone.
3. Plan ahead.
4. Delegate responsibilities.
5. Eat sensibly.

6. Drink sensibly.
7. Lower your expectations.
8. Create new traditions.
9. Watch your spending.
10. Do a kind deed.


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