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Finding Christmas joy amid chaos

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December is the busiest month of the year for many families. With shopping, baking and tons of special holiday activities and events, it's easy to get caught up in the holiday chaos and stress.

The Mayo Clinic offers a few tips to reduce stress. To start, you need to identify what causes stress in your life, then learn strategies to deal with your stress triggers.

Even happy events and occasions like the holidays can bring stress into your life. The key to finding Christmas joy is to reduce your stress level and the amount of chaos in your life.

So how does that work when you need to bake three dozen cookies for each child's party, wrap gifts to ship to relatives living out of state, attend two band concerts at two different schools on the same day and deck the halls all in one day?

Kids learn about handling stress from watching how their parents handle stress. If, like many of us, you find yourself easily annoyed when you have too much to do and not enough time, here are some tips.

Spend quiet time each day in prayer or meditation. This simple step is the starting point to finding joy all year long. Whether you pray or sit in quiet reflection, giving your racing brain a break in the action will reduce stress.

Wake up 30 minutes early each day. It's amazing how much you can accomplish early in the day, before the rest of the family is awake.

Turn on the Christmas music and light the tree. Nothing helps get you in the holiday spirit like Christmas music playing softly in the background while you go about your day.

Make a to-do list, but don't get too upset if you don't get it all done. Although some hate lists, making a list lets you know what needs to be done.

Beware of time thieves. You may have to ban Facebook, Twitter and other social media for the month of December if you find they take too much time out of your day.

Be grateful for what you have. It sounds simple, but the act of gratitude brings peace. Write down three reasons to be grateful each day. If you practiced daily gratitude during November, it will be easy to continue in December.

Take time every day to show your appreciation to the people in your life. From your spouse and children to parents, siblings, neighbors and coworkers, showing gratitude to others gives you a sense of joy.

Don't say yes to everything but say yes to something. It's great to volunteer and help others. As a lifelong volunteer, nothing brings more joy than helping those in need. Pick a group or charity and dig in to offer your talents.

Slow down and savor the moment. During the holidays, it's easy to be in high gear but more difficult to slow down and live in the moment. It's worth the effort. This moment in time will never return.

Accept that you can't do it all. This may be the toughest thing for you to do. Look at the calendar and decide which events are non-negotiable. Cut some of the others that are less important in favor of more family time.

Peek in and look at your kids while they are asleep. Hold that image in your mind during the busy days when the tasks at hand are many and tempers are short. They grow up too quickly and you'll miss these days someday.

Eat healthy foods every day. I know that the Christmas cookies are calling out to you, but make sure to eat healthy foods too. Your body will thank you now and later.

Exercise. What? Add something during December? Physical activity helps calm your mind while keeping your body healthy and in shape.

Ask for help from family and friends. Don't wait until you feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. If you don't already have a chore chart, December is a great time to begin.

Enjoy the busy month of December. It only lasts for 31 days, but the memories waiting to be created will last forever for you and your family.

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