All Is...CALM?

The importance of getting things done with the least possible amount of stress is a popular topic at this time of year. But, often, that's easier said than done, unless you have someone telling you exactly how to pull it off.

Well, on The Early Show, Susan Ungaro filled the bill. She is the editor-in-chief of Family Circle magazine, and she shared some practical ways to help you cut down on holiday stress.

During the season, try to first recall what's really most meaningful to you and your family. Probably, the thing that is causing you stress is not the thing that is most important to the rest of the family. They may not really care if you decorate every single room of your house (like the bathroom!). Maybe they just want to know that they're going to have that quiet Christmas Eve celebration. So make sure that you're not overwhelming yourself with things that aren't that important.

  1. Make A List with details; not only names but also sizes, ages, favorite colors, two possibilities of gifts for each person. If you think ahead, it will save your sanity, because you will be better able to focus on the tasks at hand.

    For instance, write down which book or CD they'd really like. That way, you will not be in the store trying to think about it with a huge selection in front of you. And don't stop there; while you're in the store, why not label the box? When you get home with all those packages, you'll be able to easily remember who gets what.

    If you're really feeling crunched about your holiday gift buying this year, you can always turn to the Internet. Plenty of sites allow you to order up until just a few days before Christmas and still get it there in time, but that can sometimes add a little more stress because you're not 100 percent certain if your gifts made it, and you're limiting your available selection.

  2. Don't Go Postal. If you haven't gotten stamps for your holiday cards, try going during the week, as opposed to the weekend. This will save you time waiting in line.

    Rather than spending the time to hand-write out every envelope and return address, use pre-printed labels that you either receive throughout the year from charities, or make them yourself on the computer.

    Also, when you're out shopping, see if you can have gifts sent directly from the store, rather than sending them yourself. It may cost you a few more dollars, but it'll save your sanity.

  3. Take Shortcuts At Home. Being a good hostess isn't about being Martha Stewart. If people are coming to your home for the holidays, it's to see you, not to see how you've decked the halls. This is not the time to do the white glove test. Don't stress about scrubbing the house and vacuuming and dusting until you're exhausted. Clear away the clutter and dim the lights, using the lights from the tree and candles for ambiance.
  4. Prepare Now. Are you making the holiday meal? Start preparing some of the dishes now and freeze them. Don't be shy about allowing people to bring things, like appetizers or desserts. If they offer, why not let them? Otherwise, consider having someone else make the turkey or goose this year, or even have the whole meal catered. You may be surprised at how little it matters to anyone if you don't make everything yourself from scratch. It doesn't make you any less of a hostess.

    You can also stock your fridge and freezer with easy-to-prepare meals for the next couple of weeks leading up to the holidays to save you time and energy from cooking full meals every night until then.

    Be ready for company. Keep the pantry stocked with a basket containing wine, fancy nuts and cocktail napkins so you always have something to put out if people stop by, or buy some frozen appetizers that can be heated up in a pinch for unexpected guests.

  5. Avoid The Cash Crunch. It's amazing how we all seem to find ourselves in debt after the holidays, even though we know they're coming every year. So for next year, start putting money away in January. Start a "Christmas Club" at your bank and try to put $20-50 per month in the account so that you'll have a nice nest egg to spend on holiday shopping next year.

    The downside is that these savings accounts don't usually build a lot of interest, but the upside is obvious.

In general, remember that you still have 15 days until Christmas, and that's a lot of time.

Take care of yourself. What is one thing that makes you feel less stressed? Maybe it's a manicure, or perhaps you just need to carve out an hour or two for yourself to do something special so that you can start off Christmas week feeling blessed -- not stressed.