Feeling stressed from the holidays? Co-workers getting on your nerves? Wondering how you’ll pay for those holiday gifts? Can’t figure out what to buy your daughter’s dance teacher? “People try to balance the social events of the holidays, along with buying gifts and keeping up on work duties. No wonder they feel extra stress during December,” says Silvana Clark, a professional speaker on Humor in the Workplace.

Instead of feeling you have to decorate your house worthy of Martha Stewart’s approval…relax. Having time to spend with family and friends takes a higher priority than knitting sweaters for everyone on your gift list. This year, look for ways to simplify the usual scurrying, (and swearing!) by trying these ideas:

•When children clamor for items they “HAVE” to have, smile graciously and say, “Go ahead and write it on a wish list. Give me five items on the list I can choose from.” You’ll be surprised how quickly the list changes, hour by hour. It also teaches children to focus on what they really want.

•Use creativity to break the monotony of everyday workplace routines. Try a stand-up meeting where everyone remains standing during the staff meeting. Celebrate untraditional holidays such as Ugly Tie Day or Clean off Your Desk Day. Give out awards such as “The Good and Plenty” award for someone with lots of good ideas. Naturally they get a box of Good and Plenty candy to go with the esteemed award.

•Let friends and co-workers know they are appreciated
. Instead of spending the afternoon shopping for a special apron decorated with apples for your son’s teacher, stay home. Yes, stay home and handwrite notes of appreciation to special people in your life. They’ll treasure the note far more than another “World’s Greatest Soccer Coach” mug.

•Instead of buying individual gifts for friends, how about giving them invitations to a fun get-together, after the holidays. Plan a simple dessert buffet or wine and cheese sampling in January. Your friends will enjoy having something to look forward to and you enjoy not having to shop and wrap numerous presents.

•Add a little humor to your life with simple novelty toys like stress balls or even a jar of Play-Dough. When the stress gets too high, simply push your very own red PANIC button. These double backed adhesive computer keys attach to any computer keyboard, (or any object that brings you frustration.) This gag gift is an actual computer key imprinted with “PANIC”. It’s ideal for bringing a light hearted touch to the office.

•Take time with your family to do some “old-fashioned” activities. Try taking a walk to look at holiday lights. Shop at a church craft bazaar rather than the mall. Take advantage of free holiday concerts and festivals. If you have young children, there’s no need to buy expensive tickets to a professional version of The Nutcracker. Go to a local community production. That way, if children get restless, you can leave and not feel guilty for “wasting” the expensive tickets.

Most of all, remember you are in control. This holiday season, find ways to laugh and enjoy the holidays with a light-hearted spirit, rather than simply crossing off items on your “Must-do” list.

Silvana Clark is a professional speaker and author of eleven books. She reduced stress life by spending free time promoting her dog for TV commercials and always using the PANIC button on her computer. Oh yes, she also appeared on the Fox reality show, Trading Spouses.