Feelings of stress, loneliness and isolation are particularly difficult During the holiday season. Here are some tips on stress management to help you improve your sense of well-being during the holidays and throughout the year:

-Anticipate potential holiday stresses.-Plan ahead to balance the many holiday demands on time, energy, budget, etc.

-Delegate holiday preparation tasks to other family members or plan potluck-style gatherings.

-Take the pressure off by setting realistic expectations for yourself. Weight others' expectations against your assumptions. Ask for assistance from family members, then proceed with holiday plans that are reasonable and enjoyable.

-Set realistic expectations of others. Avoid setting yourself up for disappointments.

-Have a positive attitude. Listen to the messages you give yourself about yourself and your life. Focus on those messages that are positive, those that give you energy. Use self-affirmations to stay positive and maintain healthy behavior. Challenge any self-defeating attitudes and beliefs. Surround yourself with positive people.

-Take care of yourself through the season. Learn to say no to overwhelming demands.

-Get regular exercise - it's a great stress reliever and may increase your energy level.

-Be prepared to wait. Bring along a good book or cards to write at places you know you'll have to wait.

-Relax your standards. Finding the "perfect" gift or planning the "perfect" holiday is unnecessary, unrealistic and stressful.

-Be prepared for bad weather. Stock your car with cold weather safety gear before you travel.

-Reward yourself often as you accomplish tasks and goals. Plan breaks for yourself after shopping. Recognize your success rather than dwell on your shortcomings. If you don't succeed at one thing, it doesn't mean you are a failure.

-Try to schedule some pleasurable tasks into every day. Also schedule some private time to unwind. Think well of yourself and treat yourself well.

-Change your perspective or beliefs about the holidays. Reduce your high expectations of family gatherings and consider introducing a new twist to old family traditions.

-Set limits for yourself at holiday feasts and plan non-food rewards for yourself.

-Plan parties where the focus is not solely on eating or drinking. Consider snow sculpturing, games, caroling, etc. Provide non-alcohol drink alternatives at holiday parties.

-Be assertive about your healthy decisions about eating and drinking. The holiday season can put pressure to "eat, drink and be merry."

-Redefine your sense of family. Celebrate the holidays with close friends and others, if family is unavailable for you.

-Talk about your feelings about the holidays. Often a grief reaction will resurface during the holiday season. Friends may help you sort out where "holiday blues" are coming from.

-Take time to relax. Use deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, time management and humor to help you relieve the stress you experience at holiday time and year round.

-Reduce emphasis on gifts. Exchange homemade gifts and concentrate on spending quality time with each other.

-If you are trying to maintain recovery from chemical dependency or eating disorders, prepare yourself for the barrage of food and drink at holiday functions. Use sponsors, self-help and aftercare groups for support.

-Ask for help. If you experience feelings of depression, hopelessness or loss of control, seek professional help.