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6 Holiday Stress Tips

With the relative-wrangling, wallet-wringing, and last-toy-on- the-shelf wrestling, the holidays can send you right up a tree. And that's so not the point! How to sail through with your sanity intact

The holidays are here again. Ho, are you going to deal with them? Because while the season's fun, it can be stressful, too, especially for moms. Whether you're knocking yourself out getting ready for guests or having the annual fight with your husband about whom you'll celebrate with this year, there are plenty of coal lumps mixed in with the candy canes. But don't worry: We asked you to share your biggest holiday peeves, and, in the nick of time, we've got expert advice on how to handle them. Read on.

Q: Ugh! As usual, I'm feeling a lot of pressure to invite my obnoxious cousin to my holiday party just because he's family. Can I not include him?

Oh yeah, it's tempting—chocolate-lava-cake tempting, Brad Pitt tempting—to pretend your cuz's invite just got "lost" in the mail. But don't do it. "Part of personal growth is learning to deal with people you don't like," says Kathleen Hall, Ph.D., founder and CEO of the Stress Institute in Atlanta. Even if you feel you're fully grown, thanks, she adds this caution: You're only postponing the inevitable, since you'll surely see him at some other family function. What you really need to do is figure out ways to keep him from getting under your skin when he's double-dipping nachos and telling sexist jokes.

For starters, Hall advises, "Invite him to bring a friend. Then there's less chance he'll latch on to you." Serving a sit-down meal? Revive the old practice of place cards and stick him out of your line of sight. You also need a subtle signal—more subtle than, say, putting your hands around your cousin's neck—so your husband will know when to rescue you. Of course, that assumes your mate will remain watchful. "I've been married for thirty-five years and my husband has blown the signal thing for three and a half decades," says Hall. So you ought to have a mantra, too, "something you tell yourself while interacting with your cousin that makes you feel powerful and not the victim," she explains. Her suggestions: "This is my party" or "I am joyful—tonight's my night!" To a mantra, we'd add a martini, but that's just us.