Surviving the stress-filled holidays:Tips to reduce your chaos

If you're hoping for the gift of more time with your family during the holidays, take heart. Consulting this list and checking it twice is sure to help you keep your holiday stress to a minimum and help you have time to enjoy the season with your children and family.

—Stick to your pre-set spending amount. Leave the house with the money or credit cards you've already designated for holiday gift-giving and you'll reduce the chance of spending more than what you've budgeted.

—Set your shopping curfew. It's important to realize your limitations. After a few hours of searching, take a break and resume your quest for the perfect gift the next day. You're more likely to be creative and inspired on a good night's sleep.

—Hide things logically. Sort and store gifts according to each recipient to make them easier to inventory and wrap. And write down your hiding spots to eliminate losing the perfect sweater you bought for your sister in April.

—Simple is sometimes better. A heartfelt sentiment attached to a package of homemade toffee or fudge lets auxiliary people in your family's life know they're remembered. An afternoon spent in the kitchen making goodies with your family can produce gifts to send the bus driver, scout leader or gymnastics coach that have simplistic charm and are easy on your holiday finances.

—Have a wrapping co-op. Taking painstaking efforts to adorn presents with beautiful packaging isn't everyone's forte. Get together with a group of friends to wrap gifts, share shopping tips and support one another through the chaotic holidays. Swapping trimmings, wrappings and stories makes this dreaded task a lot more fun and creates time to get together with friends during the busy season!

—Get the whole family involved. Relinquishing some of the decorating or shopping control can generate stress relief. Letting children wrap gifts for their parents or extended family members reduces your workload and gives a gift wrapped in love.

—Stick to your child's schedule. Parents' elevated stress at this time of year can often transfer to their children. Adhering to kids' regular meal and sleep schedules helps minimize their stress as well as yours.

—Replace gifts with events. Instead of exchanging gifts or gift certificates, go out for lunch, dinner or drinks with your friends or book club. The time spent together is often the best gift of all. It also provides a chance to unwind while you all share the holiday season.

—RSVP honestly. Don't feel obligated to accept every holiday invitation. If you don't have time to make it to a party, let the host or hostess know in plenty of time to avoid feeling guilty for being a last-minute no-show.

—Take care of yourself. It's easy to neglect yourself at the holidays because you're busy caring for your family and friends. Make sure not to skip meals, get plenty of rest, and stick to your regular workout and supplement routine to keep your mind and body fresh and stress-free.

—Make your own list. Parents tend to focus so much attention on fulfilling their child's holiday wishes that they neglect themselves. Make a list of items, goals, or home improvements you'd like to receive.

—Don't be shy. If contributing a lavish dessert to your group celebration is too taxing, don't feel embarrassed to speak up and say so. Gathering with friends and family should be something to look forward to and shouldn't feel like a chore. Consider buying a great dessert if you don't have hours to devote to creating one.

—Be realistic. Don't take on more than your schedule or ambition permits. If you're going to be setting up and putting away the holiday decorations, make sure you're realistic about how much you're going to display. In order to have time to enjoy the days of celebration, don't over-commit your family to too many events in a day or weekend.

—Pen your thank-you notes as soon as you receive a gift.