Expect the unexpected when getting that annual photo of the kids with Santa Claus. (Photo by Kristine George)

’Tis the season to be, well, hopefully festive and jolly fits in here but for many of us, it also means the season to be stressed, maxed out financially and depressed.
While it is my favorite time of year to be sure, I am also filled with a ton of stress, my blood pressure inevitably soars and I run around like a crazy person, trying to get all of my holiday obligations complete. Does any of this sound familiar?
While I am working on finding ways to make the season more enjoyable, I am also on a perpetual search for ways to simplify the season. A lack of time and money, credit card debt, and the pressure of gift giving can often contribute to stress during the holiday season.
As my gift to you, here are some simple living hacks to hopefully make your holiday season a little less stressful!
The Gift of Health: Studies have shown that the holiday season — and stress that often accompanies it — can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and obesity if left unchecked.
There is an increase in the occurrence of heart attacks and heart-related deaths during the festive season, which may be due to stress, heavy alcohol consumption, a fatty diet, some combination of the three.
What can we do to alleviate this? Take care of ourselves! Eat a healthy diet, limit portion sizes of those high calorie sweet treats and add some exercise to your daily routine.
Walk for at least 10 minutes — the walk will help you burn some of those extra sugar cookies off and will help alleviate stress at the same time.
Physical activity reorganizes the brain in such a way that it reduces its response to stress.
Regular exercise can help to decrease tension, boost your mood and produce endorphins that will help you cope with stress better!
You may find that 10-minute walk stretches into a half hour that you look forward to each day!
Savvy Spending: This time of year is truly a challenge for those fiscally strapped families that are already living paycheck to paycheck.
Don’t sacrifice the essential bills you have to pay — things like your mortgage, rent, utilities and other necessities — for the sake of impressing someone with a fancy Christmas gift. Set a budget for gifts as well as any other holiday spending that may occur — such as visiting friends, potluck dinners or traveling to visit families.
Know what you have to spend on gifts and stick to it — no one is going to be looking at the price tag of that gift — they are just going to be grateful that you thought of them!
In some years, when my budget has been slimmer than others, I have done homemade gifts or done small themed gift bags.
Moral of the story: Do not put yourself in debt or financial distress to dazzle your loved ones this season. Make your budget, stick to it, no matter how meager it is — and enjoy the reason for celebrating to begin with!
If you think other members of your family are game, consider a white elephant exchange — which is always a hoot — or draw names to focus on one significant gift rather than a bunch of smaller ones.
The gift of time with your loved ones is all they really need!
Manage Expectations: I blame the Hallmark Channel for this one, but we all have a vision of the perfect holiday, but when reality falls short of the vision, it can get really stressful!
Try to manage expectations by knowing that something will inevitably go wrong — or at least not as planned!
If your kid throws a tantrum during the Santa picture, you spill wine on the new Christmas dress or the dog rips all the wrapping paper off your carefully wrapped gifts, take it as a great anecdote for the season and know you will have something to laugh about in years to come! I used to get so stressed about our annual picture with Santa — and each year, the photos were a colossal failure.
My kids either melted down, cried on his lap or refused to pose with jolly St. Nick to begin with.
Do you know what we did? We created a Santa album of all our Santa picture fails and when I open that album each year and see the absolute mayhem that these photos caused, I always have a good chuckle!
Last year, both my kids smiled sweetly on Santa’s lap — and I was actually kind of bummed to not have a new anecdote for that year!
Rather than get worked up about any inevitable mishaps that might occur, view these miniature calamities as an opportunity to exercise flexibility — and have a good laugh. (I also like to watch a good Christmas classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” to remind myself that no matter how stressed I am, at least I’m not Clark Grisworld!)
(Editor’s Note: Kristine George is a freelance journalist who resides in Easton.)