Rejoice, but relax: 7 steps toward a merry-but-manageable holiday

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(BPT) - For many, the pressure of the holiday season can be enough to wear away the glitter and magic.

Some 62 percent of American adults define their stress as "very or somewhat" elevated over the holidays, says research cited by Harvard Medical School's Department of Neurobiology.

But that old chestnut doesn't have to be true for you. When you plan ahead and keep your expectations reasonable, the season can unfold at an even and enjoyable pace, making room for new and happy memories.

That's doubly true when you're entertaining. As long as you're well-prepared, your event can create holiday cheer and goodwill and even strengthen bonds between friends and family. Consider how these entertaining tips can help you stage a minimal-stress, maximum-impact event at which your guests can relax this holiday season.

1. Make your list, check it twice. Assign tasks to different days leading up to the event so you can stay on task, factoring in the time you'll need for other holiday happenings.

2. Enlist elves. It's likely unrealistic to expect yourself to single-handedly master all the cooking, cleaning and mingling your event will involve. In the spirit of the season, consider hiring younger family members to help with the more grueling tasks - then paying them with Christmas shopping money.

3. Bring on (then freeze) the figgy pudding. Let's face it, many dishes taste just as good or better when prepared ahead of time and frozen or simply kept in the fridge until they're ready to serve. Save the last hours leading to your event for recipes that will taste much better freshly made and/or hot out of the oven.

4. Save time on sides. Instead of diverting your time peeling and mashing potatoes or shredding cheese, turn to instantly delicious refrigerated side dishes like Bob Evans Original Mashed Potatoes or Macaroni & Cheese. Rich with real butter and milk, they're so delectable your guests will never guess they're not homemade. Insider tip: Keep a secret stash on hand for unexpected company.

5. Deck the halls simply. Fresh, sweet-smelling pine boughs tied with red ribbon can be tucked into containers throughout your home, while inexpensive or vintage colored glass bulbs look festive when wound with strings of white twinkle lights and placed in translucent bowls.

6. Tidy the workshop. Assign one room to be the catch-all when company is coming, then keep that door closed while entertaining. Sort it out at your own pace after the holidays.

7. Rudolph as remedy. Weariness and/or a bad mood can be hard to sustain when you're playing festive, upbeat holiday music people have been singing along to since they were kids.

The holidays are typically filled with joy and some stress. But when you make a conscious attempt to reduce the busywork, you're more apt to feel warm and happy about the memories you've created for yourself and others.

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