Even the most levelheaded of us can get a little stressed around the holiday season. Being mindful of what is causing stress is a great way to avoid it. A recent issue of Harvard Mental Health Letter discusses how mindfulness techniques can help ease stress, which we know can have both mental and physical effects on our bodies. Here's an excerpt:

"Multitasking has become a way of life. People talk on a cell phone while commuting to work, or scan the news while returning e-mails. But in the rush to accomplish necessary tasks, people often lose connection with the present moment. They stop being truly attentive to what they are doing or feeling. Mindfulness is the opposite of multitasking...The idea is to focus attention on what is happening in the present and accept it without judgment."

Read more for do-it-yourself methods and tips on how to cultivate and practice mindfulness every day. 

Occupational therapy plays an important role in mental health and occupational therapists are skilled in helping people deal with stress, depression, and other emotional issues.

Here are a few more tips from OTs for not letting the holidays get you down.

Manage your holiday expectations: Ease up on perfection this time of year and remember that adults' expectations for the holidays are often very different from children's. Children aren't looking for gourmet meals, color-coordinated decorations, or the impeccable centerpiece. Balance holiday "to-dos" with time spent with family and friends.

It's not the toy that matters: Don't stress over finding the perfect toy (or getting your hands on this year's "it toy") and instead focus on play. Play encourages bonding, sharing, and fun. Make it a family activity and use objects you already have in your house or outside.

What means the most to you? Figure out what traditions and activities bring you joy and focus on those. Engage in activities with true meaning and consider giving up activities that are stress-inducing.

Ask for help: Family members and friends can share the burden by helping you prepare meals, entertain, or buying gifts. Just ask!

Take care of yourself: Exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep.

Holidays are valuable without spending a lot of money: Memories are made when families participate in activities together and many of those activities don't involve spending money. Try baking, caroling, playing, stringing popcorn, and attending free community events.

What techniques or strategies do you use to deal with stress around the holidays? Share in the comments.

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