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This time of year can be overwhelming and stressful whether you celebrate the holidays or not. So many people are out shopping for gifts, traffic is high, travel is expensive, children are demanding, people are emotional and everybody wants to eat. Here are some simple tips to help get you through these times.

1. Eat healthy and work out. I know. I know. This is one time of year you get to have seconds and thirds, then dessert without looking like a glutton, however, try to control yourself. It’s so easy to put on pounds during the holiday season and then regret it because you weren’t able to get it all off by the following summer. You know what happens on December 31st, everybody starts making resolutions to lose weight, but what were we doing all year that got us to that point in the first place?

2. If you’re cooking for people, make sure the cooking area in your house is clean. Please do not serve people food with those dirty 99 cent store trays and utensils without washing them first. I don’t want to hear, “Oh, but they’re brand new.” I don’t care. Wash them! Nobody wants to get E.coli or Salmonella from your dirty, undercooked food and health practices.

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3. If you’re traveling, prepare ahead of time. There is nothing worse than rushing to throw random things in a bag and running out to catch a plane, train or automobile. Label your luggage. Keep them close to you at all times. People will steal your stuff and not even care about your little holiday vacation. Remember that episode of Martin when he and Gina got jacked?

4. It’s ok to be sad when you’ve lost a loved one this year. Cry and let it out. Remember all of the great times you shared and why they’re loved and missed. Smile about it.

5. Don’t stay home alone, moping around. Either be productive at home or get out and do something fun. Find out what’s happening locally. Meet new friends. Call an old friend that you haven’t spoken to in a while just to check in. That’s sure to put a smile on their faces, and yours too.

6. Get over your judgment and enjoy your family. They may be different than you and you may not even like them all that much, but guess what, they’re still your family. Even your Five Percenter brother or newly Muslim converted cousin who both complain about the honey ham your Mama made and just can’t resist telling the children the true history of the holidays deserve love too. Invite them. They may miss you. And, if you have an issue with Cousin Pam for looking at your man last Thanksgiving that you’re not even with anymore, this may not be the time to address it. Be mindful. You don’t want to ruin the family festivities.

7. If somebody spazzes out, they may be dealing with some holiday stress. Try to give them a pass; this time.

8. Don’t overdo it with the wine and use Jesus drinking wine as an excuse for you falling over looking crazy. Chances are if you go too far, you probably didn’t need the holiday season of Jesus as an excuse.

9. Set a budget and stick to it. Eating, partying, buying gifts, getting new outfits and all of those things can add up. Trying to buy happiness does not fix the fact that you’ll be broke again come January 1st. Buying people’s love doesn’t work either. As a matter of fact, start making some meaningful, homemade gifts and see how much people who you they love you then.
10. Don’t be too upset when some of the family is no longer meeting at Grandma’s house. Sometimes people marry, go off to school, or move to other areas. Families change but it does not mean that they love isn’t there. Maybe they’re broke and just can’t get there. If you aren’t paying for them to travel, then stop complaining. People have bills to pay.

11. Spend family time sharing old family stories or passing around pictures so the family history isn’t lost. Turn the TV off. With a house full of family, what could you possibly need the television for? Maybe the children can set the table the way grandma used to do it so they can learn and pass it on.
Teach them about their heritage and incorporate something cultural.

13. Help someone. There are so many people out there that could use help. What’s little to you may be huge to someone else. If you get a new coat, give away an old one. Also, don’t waste any food! People are hungry out there. Again, get the children involved. There are so many lessons to learn with acts of kindness. If you can go to a stranger’s door on Halloween and ask for candy, you can certain go to a neighbor’s door and offer a meal.

13. Welcome someone new. Maybe there’s an out of state college student who couldn’t afford to get home for the holidays. They probably don’t want to be alone. Or maybe a co-worker who recently lost her parents and is in a new town. Be an “extended family”. It takes a village.

14. Don’t forget about you. This is the time of year that we shop and treat others to things that they’ll enjoy. But don’t forget to take some time and do something for yourself. You deserve it.