The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy and peace, but often the additional pressures that come up at this time of year make it seem quite the opposite. You need to do shopping, wrap presents, bake cookies, and prepare for out of town guests. All of this comes on top of the normal busy life you lead, and sometimes it can just seem like too much. Here are some tips that can help.

1.) Lower Expectations

You will feel less stress if you lower some of your expectations a notch or two. The dinner you make does not need to be an 8-course gourmet feast. Your home does not need to look like a Martha Stewart magazine spread. You will be happier (and likely those around you will be too) if you lower some of your expectations. It's better to do something simple and enjoy it, than to stress over an elaborate event.

2.) Make Gift Giving Easier

Rather than searching the malls in an attempt to find the perfect gift for everyone, let people help you. Ask everyone what they want, and have family members put together wish lists for you. Set a budget for gifts, and stick to it, to reduce the financial stress. Also, the earlier you start shopping, the less last-minute problems you will face.

3.) Schedule Time With Friends And Family

Try to spread out your holiday visits, so that you see some people before and after the holidays, rather than trying to cram everything into a short amount of time. Try to avoid driving across town at rush hour, or flying on the worst travel days of the year. If you are too busy to accept a friend's invitation, see if you can take a rain check and get together another time instead.

4.) Simplify Family Meals

Too many family holidays end up with the cook spending an entire day in the kitchen, while other people watch football games. Look for ways to simplify the food preparation. You can cook many things in advance, freeze them, and just reheat them on the holiday. You can ask people to bring side dishes with them. Many stores even offer a pre-made holiday dinner, including a turkey or ham and all the accompaniments.

5.) Watch Out For The Holiday Blues

Sometimes the holidays stir up unhappy memories, and make people feel sad. Whether this is caused by thoughts of a lost loved one, or general uncertainty about life, the holidays can intensify these feelings. Try to spend time with the people you love, and feel gratitude for what you do have, rather than focusing on what you've lost. If you need help, be sure to talk to somebody.

6.) Give Yourself A Break

Be sure to leave a little downtime for yourself. You need to get some rest and take care of yourself, or you cannot properly enjoy the holidays. Don't wear yourself out rushing here and there in a mad frenzy to take care of your holiday obligations. Plan to finish up your tasks in time that you can spend some time relaxing and enjoying. This is supposed to be a holiday, after all.