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updated: 11/30/2015 6:16 AM

Your health: 5 tips for staying (almost) stress free

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  • The holidays can be a trying time. Here's some tips on reducing stress during this season.

    The holidays can be a trying time. Here's some tips on reducing stress during this season.
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Stay stress-free this holiday season

Can you feel the stress starting to build?

The holiday season brings with it a flurry of must-accomplish tasks such as baking, shopping, entertaining, traveling and dealing with eccentric family members who arrive ready to renew decades-old arguments.

So how can you make sure all those stress-inducing moments don't ruin your health and sap your holiday spirit?

First off, don't stress about the fact you feel stressed, says Dr. Donna L. Hamilton, author of "Wellness Your Way: The Short and Sweet Guide to Creating Your Custom Plan for a Happier, Healthier Life."

"Stress is pervasive," Dr. Hamilton says. "Stress is a fact of life. And stress isn't even always bad. Some people need a certain amount of stress to function optimally."

Dr. Hamilton offers these five tips to help you feel less stressed as you navigate your way through holiday hassles.

• Gratitude. Research shows that expressing gratitude can help improve mood, increase energy levels, relieve stress and increase motivation. So look for reasons to be grateful during the holidays.

• Pause for a moment. Remember to take a few deep, relaxing breaths throughout the day no matter how you are feeling.

• Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep makes it more difficult to deal with the stressful situations you might face through the holidays.

• Take a walk after you eat. This works two ways for you. It helps relax you and is good exercise.

• Dance and laugh often. They both burn calories and help lift your mood. "

Many people feel the need to do something for others during the holiday season, but Dr. Hamilton says it's important to remember as you bake pies, wrap gifts or hang decorations that you also must pay attention to your own physical and mental needs.

"You can't give from an empty cup," Dr. Hamilton says. "Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury."

How to eat healthy away from home

For those with diabetes or other health concerns, eating out, whether in a restaurant or at a relative's house, can be a challenge.

Harvard Medical School suggests it may help to follow these simple guidelines:

• Ask how entrees are prepared, and avoid fried foods or dishes served in heavy sauces or gravies.

• Choose skinless chicken, fish, or lean meat that's broiled, poached, baked, or grilled.

• Get the server's advice to help you select healthy, low-fat dishes. Restaurants are used to dealing with special diets.

• Don't feel obliged to clean your plate. Eat a reasonable portion, and take the remainder home.

• Choose steamed vegetables and salads to accompany your meals.

• Request low-calorie dressings and toppings, and if they're not available, ask for all dressings, butter, and sauces to be served on the side so you can use them sparingly.

• If you take insulin and you know your meal will be delayed, time your injection appropriately. You may need to eat a roll or piece of fruit to tide you over.

• If you're craving dessert, have some -- but split it with someone else.

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